LAHAINA (HawaiiNewsNow) – The Maui Police Department is taking the lead in providing services at a growing homeless camp.
MPD’s Mobile Medical Educational Unit has been near “cut mountain” in West Maui since January.
“A lot of these people, they don’t have transportation. They’re really struggling,” said Sgt. Jan Pontanilla with MPD’s CORE (Critical Outreach and Response through Education) Unit.
The MMEU is a one-stop shop for medical care and mental health services and has been helping hundreds of Maui’s most vulnerable since 2021.
It started as an idea by Maui police officers. The Department of Transportation donated a decommissioned bus, and MPD used COVID funding to retrofit it to make it possible.
“A lot of times, if you do make appointments with these individuals, they’re not gonna go. They have a hard time even getting there. So, we try to make it a little easier for them,” Sgt. Pontanilla said.
Melissa Taculog has been homeless for five years. She has been living at the Lahaina encampment for about four months now.
“They help us with food and medical, and they have the humane society,” she said.
The Maui Humane Society says helping homeless individuals keep their pets is important because the animal shelter is currently overcapacity.
“Food, leashes, supplies, dog kennels, fencing, doghouse, dog beds, whatever they could possibly need for us to help them out to be able to not have to feel like they have to surrender their pet and bring it to the shelter. So, if we can help these folks with the things that they need to keep their pet with them, that’s the goal,” said Maui Humane Society enforcement officer Andrea Paresa.
In addition, a medical doctor volunteers her time to provide wound care every week.
“Our intention isn’t to enable them. That’s kind of a belief in the community because they’re not aware of the kinds of programs and resources that we provide for them. We are trying to establish trust and rapport with them so that we can get them housed,” said Dr. Arleen Ricalde-Garcia.
MPD says the ultimate goal is to get them into housing. But it takes consistency and compassion to get them there.