And Justice for All

Local Resident Darryl Vincent helps out heroes.

Homelessness is a serious problem in Hawai‘i. But while many avert their eyes to the issue, one man in Kapolei has been making it his mission to be part of the solution.

DARRYL VINCENT is the Chief Operating Officer of UNITED STATES VETERANS INITIATIVE HAWAII Office (U.S. Vets)—part of the largest nonprofit homeless veterans service provider in the nation, with 11 facilities in six states and the District of Columbia.

Though he has been with the organization for a little over a decade, helping the less fortunate is something that has always been in his blood.

“My mother was a social worker so I grew up in the nature that it’s our job to make sure those who can’t take care of themselves get a helping hand,” says Vincent.

Thirteen years ago, Vincent was working as a clinical supervisor for the Institute for Human Services in homeless services. Working side-by-side with the Department for Veteran Affairs, he learned that U.S. Vets was expanding to Hawai‘i. As a marine corps veteran and someone who was already working in social services, he saw it as the perfect fit. “Ten years ago the opportunity arose and it became something with a tangible outcome,” says Vincent, who is hopeful about their chances. “I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel, [as far as] ending homelessness among veterans.”

Darryl Vincent at U.S. Vets-Hawaii, Barbers Point

Darryl Vincent at U.S. Vets-Hawaii, Barbers Point

Vincent has a lot to be optimistic about. From 2003-2013, U.S. Vets-Hawaii, which is stationed at Barbers Point, has served more than 2,000 homeless veterans with a phenomenal success rate. Sixty-eight percent of these vets moved into permanent housing, 75 percent of them were employed and 90 percent stayed sober. And they’re only getting started.

U.S. Vets, what he oſten refers to as a “one-stop comprehensive shop for veterans,” provides housing, substance abuse and mental health treatment, as well as career counseling. They can now add homeless prevention to their list.

“We want to make the point that even veterans that are not homeless need services,” says Vincent. “They need help so they do not become homeless.”

With this program, they’re able to assist veterans financially with their rent or mortgage to minimize the chances of them ending up on the street.

“If they’re having a problem paying rent, we can help them pay rent,” says Vincent. “[If] they need to move into a house and they don’t have first and last month’s deposit, we can help with it as well as give them services while they sustain themselves.”

U.S. Vets currently provides 98 transitional program beds for men, 20 for women (a recent addition to their programs), and 20 emergency and 50 permanent housing beds. In addition to helping veterans, Vincent says they also provide two homeless shelters, offering 230 beds in Wai‘anae and 80 in Kalaeloa, for all individuals.

“We answer the call of not only helping veterans but also to giving back to the community,” says Vincent. “Giving back to Hawai‘i families that have fallen to homelessness is important because we do realize we are part of a bigger family, which is called Hawai‘i.”

Vincent chats with Carl St. Clair in the U.S. Vets-Hawaii Career Development and Computer Center.

Vincent chats with Carl St. Clair in the U.S. Vets-Hawaii Career Development and Computer Center.

While Vincent has a lot to be proud of, he’s humbled by the work.

“What most people don’t think of a success, we do,” says Vincent. “When someone walks into our program—something as simple as getting their resume together, or seeing them come in from being homeless, where their options are limited, and now ready to get a job—is a victory I get every day. Every day you have to learn how to take those small victories most people take for granted and I never take for granted.”

In his eyes, helping those who served our country isn’t anything heroic, it’s his duty.

“There’s no way in the world a person should have to defend our country and then have to sleep on the street he or she was asked to defend,” says Vincent.

Identifying himself as a veteran advocate, he says true heroes are “those who have served our country, taken the first step to come back and say ‘I need help.’ And I’m just here to facilitate that.”