The state of homelessness on Oahu - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

The state of homelessness on Oahu

Rose Chung-Lono Rose Chung-Lono

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

LEEWARD OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Many homeless people are shaking their heads over the bickering between the city and the state about how to solve homelessness on Oahu.

A homeless count five months ago found nearly 2,800 on Oahu were sheltered homeless, meaning they were living in emergency shelters or transitional housing. Nearly 1,400 were unsheltered, living in places like parks and beaches.

Rose Chung-Lono wound up living on the beach in Leeward Oahu 10 months ago. She says she and six others could no longer make rent on a four-bedroom house in Waipahu, when five of them lost their jobs last year.

"When the recession hit, it hit us hard," she said. "We lost five incomes out of seven."

According to a new report, 4,171 people on Oahu were identified as being homeless on January 25, 2010. That's a 14.7% jump from last year.

"You know, we're not bad people. We're not as they label us -- drug dealers," Chung-Lono said. "They are people passing by on the street and they're yelling, 'Get a house.' I'm like get a clue."

Officials say the emergency shelter across the Waianae fire station is currently housing about 300 people and is near capacity. Chung-Lono says she can't go to shelters because she can't bring her 18 dogs and 10 cats with her.

"It is hard," she said. "But you gotta do what you gotta do to survive."

The city held a forum on homelessness Tuesday.

"It's about time the Mayor stepped up -- even though it's evident that he is only doing so because he is running for Governor," Barry Fukunaga, Governor Lingle's Chief of Staff, said in a written statement.

"It's unfortunate that just hours before a forum on a very serious issue that we need to be collaborative on that the state should issue such a negative statement and make the issue a political one," Bill Brennan, Mayor Hannemann's spokesperson, said.

"Instead of pointing fingers -- it's your fault, it's your fault -- what about us?" Chung-Lono said. "We're the third wheel here. We're the main concern."

The homeless in the Nanakuli-Maili area face a July 19th deadline to clear the beach. Chung-Lono says outreach workers are working with them to find shelter. But so far, she has nowhere else to go.

"I cry. I do," she said. "Honestly, I not only cry for myself but I cry for everybody else because they're all in the same boat as I am."

The city says it gave 60-days notice and is considering requests for an extension to the July 19th deadline.

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