Lawmakers talk one on one with Hawaii’s homeless

Lisa Beth Roberts
Lisa Beth Roberts

Lawmakers were in downtown Honolulu Monday morning, talking with some of Hawaii's homeless to find viable solutions to reduce homeless numbers in Hawaii. They are suggesting several ways to help Hawaii's homeless get back on their feet.

Some lawmakers believe that a designated safe zone for the homeless would provide a safe supervised night area. Representative Rida Cabanilla believes that the Aala Park should be considered as one of the safe zones since it previously used as one during the Fasi administration.

Cabanilla thinks that homeless that are mentally ill or battling drug problems are at the most risk. She and other lawmakers are looking to adopt other successful programs from cities like New York and Chicago to help chronic homelessness.

"Just because they are saying no or they have this attitude the first time, that doesn't mean that you abandon them. You put out more social workers and you give more resources so that you can eventually get to them because some of them have mental issues or drug addictions and they are not going to be convinced overnight," said Senator Wil Espero.

Lisa Beth Roberts has been homeless for a couple of years. She has tried to get back on her feet several times. She said that she has experienced corruption in shelters and thinks that there aren't enough government resources to turn to.

"You can't box anyone into a single you know form or format. Everybody is different. Everybody comes from different walks of life but we are all the same. We are all human beings and we just need help. Sometimes it's hard to ask for help and sometimes you have to humble yourself but then a lot of times when you do ask, nobody hears and that's what's frustrating," said Roberts.

Espero said that not only are lawmakers looking at safe zones but are also looking at other innovative ways to help house the homeless.

"We are still going to be pushing for tent cities and safe zones…If a land owner has a rental for example and we identify a working homeless family...if they can rent that to the working homeless family, we may be able to give a tax break where they don't have to pay the general excise tax on that rental," said Espero.

Representative Cabanilla said that lawmakers have suggested affordable housing to be built in places such as Mililani and Hawaii Kai but have received negative community feedback. Another option that lawmakers have considered is reuniting homeless people with family members on the mainland. Many of these options will be proposed and discussed at the next legislative session.

"If we properly address the homeless situation in our state, everyone wins," said Representative John Mizuno. "This will reduce the costs to our taxpayers and reduce the number of homeless in our state."

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