HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced Colin Kippen as his selection to be the state's next homelessness coordinator Friday and said a new coordinated approach toward the homeless is working.
Kippen, 62, got emotional as he stood in front of the state seal and its motto in the governor's ceremonial office, explaining why he's taking the job of homelessness coordinator.
"And the reason I do is because of the words that are behind me," Kippen said with his voice choked with emotion. "Ua Mau ke Ea o ka Aina I ka Pono. The life of this land is preserved in righteousness. And that righteousness is to care for the neediest in our communities."
Kippen replaces Marc Alexander, who resigned several months ago and now works for the state's largest homeless services organization, the Institute for Human Services.
"We will work together. We will find solutions," Kippen said.
Abercrombie signed legislation Friday making permanent an interagency council on homelessness that's been in place for the last year.
Officials said a new more coordinated effort toward the homeless is working, with more than 1,048 homeless people moved into shelters the first four months of this year and 79 people moved into permanent housing during that time.
One of the leaders of the interagency council, made up of representatives of 24 private and public sector organizations, called those numbers a "dramatic increase" from a year ago.
"Because we're working together in a different way. There's a lot more information sharing," said Lynn Heirakuji, the vice chair of the interagency council on homelessness. "There's a lot more collaboration that's occurring within the service provider community and within the service providers with government as well."
Kippen will work on Hawaii's homeless problem using his background in native Hawaiian and Indian issues.
He headed the National Indian Education Association in Washington, D.C. and was deputy administrator of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
"It's his values as a Hawaiian, his values associated with his work with native people throughout the nation that has honed that capacity for being a collaborator and a coordinator," Abercrombie said.
Acknowledging he's taking over the state's homeless efforts during an era of state and federal budget cuts, Kippen said there are other ways to attack the problem besides just using government money.
"There is something that we have not yet fully captured and that is the human capital that exists among all of the people and all of these agencies. The public as well as the private sector and we need to build those bridges," Kippen said.