Housing First homeless program faces budget challenge

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "It's going to be much harder, but I'm not giving up". Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell was upfront when assessing how the Housing First program will be implemented at 1/6th the budget he had hoped for.

The City Council approved $3 million. He wanted almost $19 million.

"In terms of administrating the rollout of this program, it takes a lot of people. And there's no funding for that part of it" the mayor said.

The program puts the chronically homeless into housing first, as the name suggests, before the administration of services. Its backers say the results on the mainland are proven.

"The people are more successful, they stay housed and they also deal with their underlying medical, psychological, mental health and other issues" said Colin Kippen, the Chair of the Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness.

"I think a lot is riding on this. I think a lot should be riding on this. One of the things we always practice is to think about what needs to be done, design a program, and be able to test it and fine tune it" Kippen continued.

An additional $32 million dollars was approved, but because that sum comes from general obligation bonds, it can only be spent on specific brick and mortar construction projects.

"Rebuilding a unit, purchasing a unit, or building a new unit" Mayor Caldwell remarked.

Most of those units will be focused in three areas: Waikiki, Downtown Honolulu and Leeward Oahu. Kippen says having the housing will help, but the administration of the program is equally important. Still, he is optimistic that once implemented, it will be successful.

"This Housing First program is really the tip of the spear, and the spear is change".

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