The latest fatal shooting by a Honolulu Police officer is igniting a renewed call to do more to get help for homeless people who may be mentally ill.
It’s a problem the mayor says needs to be addressed or it will only get worse.
Sources say the 35-year-old man shot near the state capitol yesterday was homeless. The mayor says he has spoken to the police chief about the shootings. And he wants to get to those who have the potential for violence.
HPD says the man who was shot on Sunday picked up a sharp weapon and struck an officer with it. Police say he was shot three to four times and taken to the hospital where he died.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says he spoke with HPD chief Susan Ballard about the recent shootings. She told him they mostly involve either someone on drugs or with mental illness.
“We need to come up with more programs to get these, what I’m gonna say, a lot of hardened people in our urban core who we all see wandering around our streets and some of them are dangerous,” said the mayor.
Mental health experts tell us reaching out to homeless with mental illness has been terribly difficult because they don’t want any help. But there are programs out there that have had some success.
Among them is H.E.L.P. which is an acronym for Health Efficiency Long-term Partnerships. Plain clothes officers team up with outreach workers and get the homeless to seek the services they need. In some cases offering them a ride to the facility.
“When HPD teams up with social service workers, we see that as one of the best solutions possible because the outreach workers have the skill and the ability to talk with people who need help and the HPD officer will add their clout to that situation,” said Trisha Kajimura, executive director of Mental Health America of Hawaii.
She says any outreach that can identify and help the mentally ill is a positive step for the whole community. Many of the mentally ill are victims of violent crimes themselves.
The city says 111 homeless have taken part in the HELP program, either by going to shelters or receiving treatment since it started on April 4.
The H.E.L.P. program is is done mostly in the downtown and Chinatown areas. The mayor says he would like to see it expand to other areas and would be happy to put more resources into it.