Governor details achievements of state's 90-day homelessness plan

Marc Alexander & Gov. Neil Abercrombie
Marc Alexander & Gov. Neil Abercrombie
Pele & Caroline Faumuina
Pele & Caroline Faumuina

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

KAKAAKO (HawaiiNewsNow) - State officials say there are more than 6,000 homeless people across Hawaii and about 2,500 were unsheltered during a count earlier this year. The governor says that's changing. On Sunday, he discussed the results of his 90-day homelessness plan.

When you factor in healthcare costs and money spent in response to crime, the state's coordinator on homelessness says it costs society about $35,000 a year to have a person living on the streets.

Pele Faumuina, 38, and his fiancee, Caroline, 26, have a baby, another one on the way, and a dream of someday having their own roof over their heads.

"We usually sleep at airports or on the bus, but that's when we never had kids," Faumuina said. "Now we have kids, so it's hard."

For now, they're relying on the Next Step Shelter in Kakaako, which expanded its hours under the state's 90-day homelessness plan.

By establishing partnerships with community groups, non-profit agencies and businesses, Gov. Neil Abercrombie says the plan was also able to move more than 530 people from the streets or emergency shelters to transitional or permanent housing. That included 200+ in Waikiki and urban Honolulu, 85 in Waianae, 65 on Maui, 44 on Kauai and 136 on the Big Island.

"We are no longer operating in separate lanes. We're no longer operating at cross purposes," Abercrombie said. "We're coming together in a coordinated and cooperative way."

Over the past three months, the state says its homeless hotline system has received some 500 calls and e-mails, resulting in housing referrals for more than 130 people.

The 90-day plan also uncovered that there are more senior citizens in need than the state first thought.

"So a special team now has been assembled specifically to look at how can we house our seniors more efficiently because it's scandalous to see 60-, 70-, 80-year-old men and women on the street when they shouldn't be there," Marc Alexander, state homelessness coordinator, said.

The parties now want to tackle more difficult objectives, such as developing more affordable housing and providing workforce development.

Faumuina believes the goal of ending homelessness altogether is a lofty one.

"It's hard to change people out there who need help," he said. "If they don't want help, they're just going to continue doing what they're doing. It's hard."

The recently formed Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness is scheduled to meet for the first time on August 25th to continue the efforts.

With long-term goals still unmet, the governor talked about the importance of acquiring outside funding to support homelessness efforts.

Meanwhile, millions of dollars are being spent to beautify Waikiki in preparation for the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference. Abercrombie says the November event has no direct bearing on his goal to end homelessness.

"The APEC comes, the APEC goes," he said. "We don't have anything based on any time tables or anything else. The kind of speculation that's out there about APEC and homelessness only detracts from and is dysfunctional in terms of the game plan we have operating."

The governor says tackling homelessness was something he vowed to do when he ran for office.

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