Through a recent executive order, Governor Lou Leon Guerrero reactivated the Interagency Council on Homelessness and created the Office of Homelessness Assistance and Poverty Prevention. On Thursday, they just had their first meeting.
The Government of Guam started housing homeless individuals last week at the Global Dorm in Maite as a way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within the island’s unsheltered population.
Lieutenant Governor Joshua Tenorio says that, as of today, the dorm is almost filled and 50 unsheltered individuals are occupying 39 out of 40 rooms since the first unsheltered family moved in last Friday.
Several of those being sheltered are children and more individuals are being screened by Catholic Social Services.
“36 of the people are of Chamorro descent, 8 are of Chuukese descent, 2 Caucasian, 1 Filipino, 1 Hawaiian, 1 Palauan, 1 Japanese. As you can see in this first round, many people think this is a problem being experienced by people not from here. This data will show you that predominantly, that these are people who have been born on Guam that are now in this situation of homelessness,” Tenorio said.
Dr. Margaret Hattori-Uchima, a registered nurse and the dean of the University of Guam’s School of Health, says the demand to house unsheltered individuals is great, but that it can be difficult to find facilities willing to accommodate homeless individuals and their families.
The office’s plan is to eventually provide longer-term assistance, such as job training, transitional housing, stipends, and better access to healthcare.
“There is a huge gap in terms of healthcare. We’ve been trying to work with GMH and GRMC, but they both struggle. They both have clients because they have nowhere to send them,” Hattori-Uchima said.
The office will be federally funded by the Department of Interior. The Governor has allocated $1.5 million for a multi-year funding stream that will help with operating expenses, employment, as well as a future stipend program.