Board rejects Chinatown homeless housing project - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Board rejects Chinatown homeless housing project

Frances Faria Frances Faria
Yvette Basques Yvette Basques
Gerald Yuh Gerald Yuh
Liana Benn Liana Benn
Debbie Kim Morikawa Debbie Kim Morikawa

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Not in my neighborhood. The city unveils its master plan of revitalizing Chinatown, only to be rejected by the Downtown Neighborhood Board late Wednesday evening.

At the center of the controversy is the proposed construction of a 100-unit "River Street Housing Project."

Businesses and residents worry that opening a transition home will only increase transients in the Downtown Honolulu.

It's a victory by the people. The neighborhood board voted not to go forward with project plans until there's more details. But before that, they listened to concerns and criticism on this very heated issue.

Day to after dusk, Chinatown doorways become the place homeless dream.

"About 80 every night," said Frances Faria, a former homeless person.

"Living on the streets, trying to find little places they can go," said Yvette Basques, a former homeless person.

"They'll sleep right there on the sidewalk if they have to," said Faria.

The corner of Vineyard and River Street is the proposed site for the "River Street Housing Project." A hundred studio and one-bedroom units will house homeless individuals and families dealing with issues from substance abuse to mental illness.

"The project would only compound the problem that exists now," said Citizens Committee Co-Chair Gerald Yuh.

"We already have enough problems as it is," said Chinatown Business Owner Liana Benn.

Residents and businesses worry about the project's threat to the area's children. They show it with a map.

"Kauluwela School is here. There's a Japanese temple here. There's two language schools there. The whole Chinatown area's already saturated with moderate to low in come housing. Why do we need more?" said Benn.

But projects on the mainland and in Waianae have shown results like reduced homelessness on the streets and fewer petty arrests like loitering. Homeless living in the facilities and utilizing services actually help cut down crime.

"They end up saying, not here, not in my backyard," said Waianae Community Outreach Executive Director Sophina Placencia.

"Law enforcement alone has not been able to solve this problem. This is a solution that has worked nationwide and we're asking you to give this a chance," said Community Services Director Debbie Kim Morikawa.

"it's good for the homeless people right now, they need it desperately." said Basques.

The Downtown Neighborhood Board has decided not to move forward with the proposal for a homeless housing project until a community impact statement is done.

If approved, the city will open up bids for the project for six months. Once the contract is awarded, the city will use $10.6 million from its Affordable Housing Fund to support the planning, designing and construction of the project with the approval of the Honolulu City Council.

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