Local Connection: Housing First

Local Connection: Housing First

By: Rick Blangiardi

It's been a year since Mayor Kirk Caldwell laid out his "Housing First" initiative, which seeks to house about 100 homeless people with drug, alcohol and mental health problems in apartments around the island.

But as happens with a lot of important issues here locally, the $18.9 million that will launch the program has been caught between the mayor and council, who are wrangling over which of the homeless should be helped first: families or single people.

As our Jim Mendoza recently reported, the $18.9 million has already been cut by $4 million.  The $7 million the mayor wanted to use from the sale of affordable housing units also fell victim to mayor-council disagreements.

Hanging in the balance are those who most need a place to live. The tents and blankets scattered around the city show the extent of the problem, and though the media spotlight waxes and wanes on the issue, it's still a major embarrassment for Hawaii.

Caldwell is right that housing occupants will depend on what part of the island the units are located: single men and teenage runaways in Waikiki, single men and women in Chinatown and families on the Waianae coast.

Let's not argue right now about who will be inside the apartments. Let's get the money secured and the housing and the units leased and make sure the treatment and counseling is in place.

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