Providers trying to convince landlords to house the homeless - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Providers trying to convince landlords to house the homeless

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In just three weeks Honolulu's housing first initiative will officially begin.  The goal is to get chronically homeless off the streets but today a number of concerns were expressed to the City Council.

A big concern brought up today was getting landlords to get on board with the program.  After all people who are mentally ill, have a criminal history or poor credit aren't exactly high on the preferred list of tenants.

On November 1 the City's housing first contract will begin.  The City wants to have at least three chronically homeless people in a home almost immediately and 10 by the end of the year.  The plan calls for integrating the people within the community at private units.  Some of these chronic homeless have been on the streets the past eight years so getting landlords to willingly open their doors to them is a challenge.

"There will be someone that people can call when something happens. They'll be right there 24/7 to deal with issues that the landlord may have. We're thinking that these services will encourage them to take a little more risk in agreeing to house this population," said Ember Shinn, Honolulu Managing Director.

Other incentives include guaranteed rent, money for damages to the unit and a support system checking up on them.

"You'll find that in the normal community some our most problem renters, that I've rented to don't come with that kind of support system," said Kymberly Marcos Pine, Honolulu City Councilmember.

Providers also said they need more case workers.

"I think that the provider community knows it needs to bring in more case managers and if the funds are available they'll be able to hire," said Shinn.

Another wrinkle, the homeless need to be willing participants.

"There is a segment of the population, a growing segment of the population, that just chooses to sleep in tents on the sidewalk because there are no rules," said William Hummel, Lighthouse Outreach Center.

"I believe the key is getting them to want to seek our services. It doesn't matter if housing or employment opportunities are there if they are not wanting or unwilling to attain those services," said Lambert Young, Next Step Shelter Director.

A thousand homeless have already been surveyed. To house the first 100 people will cost about a million dollars for the first year.

The city also talked about its newly formed Strategic Development Office which will spend half a million dollars to hire eight developers to figure out what to do with underutilized city property.

"Until we have people that understand development and can crunch the numbers to see what works, what doesn't work, what we can build, what we can't build it will go nowhere. It will just be talk. We don't want to do talk anymore. We're past that. Long past that," said Shinn.

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