Hilo/Kona Homes Give Youth a Safe Place
By Pauline Pavao –
The Hilo, Hawaii Interim Home (East Hawaii), directed by Roxanne Costa, was established in December 1970. In February 1991, in response to community and government agency need, the Army’s Kona Interim Home residential program was opened to serve youth in West Hawaii (Mary Hyslop, director).
The Emergency Shelter in Hilo is an 11-bed facility that accepts youth from 12 to 17 who are in need of placement due to abuse and/or neglect, minor law violations, status offenses, and problems within the family. The Kona Interim Home provides four beds in the emergency shelter program. Meeting basic needs and informal counseling helps them feel at home.
Aside from basic program requirements, recreational activities, gardening, and arts and crafts are provided. Those enrolled in school are encouraged to attend and given transportation each day. If they have been expelled, there is tutoring and encouragement to work toward a GED. Youth at Kona participate weekly in Teen Court and provide assistance in feeding the homeless.
There are six beds in Hilo and two in Kona for youth in need of placement for six months or more. A counselor provides individual, family and group counseling to youth in the program, and follow-up services to them and their families after graduation from the group home program.
Alvin Jitchaku is the program director of the Hilo/Kona Interim Home outreach program, which provides prevention and intervention services to at-risk youth and their families through help in conquering problem behaviors which could lead to delinquency, violence and participation in youth gangs.
A mini-youth center provides after school activities for youth 10 to 17 with special focus on the middle school student. Indoor arts and crafts, educational and cultural activities are offered, as well as outdoor team sports. Other activities include personal development, teen leadership programs and community service projects. Approximately 175 youth are served per year at the Kuha’o Club Youth Service Center.
Project Ho’okala is a jail and lockup removal program which receives referrals from the police to prevent inappropriate jailing of youth arrested for minor law violations. Staff are available 24 hours a day for intake/assessment and crisis intervention assistance to help youth reunite with families and access program services. The goal is to help them keep out of the juvenile justice system, preventing further family discord and possible out-of-home placement.
The Army’s youth gang prevention service in Hilo and Kona is designed to help youth and their families take control of their situation and reduce delinquency and violence. Counseling and guidance are key ingredients in this program, which offers activities to help self-development, social skills and educational goals.