Governor wants $10.8M to tackle homelessness - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Governor wants $10.8M to tackle homelessness

Rep. Sylvia Luke Rep. Sylvia Luke
Scott Fuji, Executive Director of PHOCUSED Scott Fuji, Executive Director of PHOCUSED
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The governor is asking for nearly $11 million to tackle Hawaii's growing homeless issue in the coming fiscal year.

Most of the funds are for existing programs designed to move people off the streets and into housing, but for the first time ever -- the state is also asking for money that will specifically be used to conduct homeless sweeps.

While the effectiveness of sweeps has been challenged -- especially in areas like Kakaako -- officials maintain that enforcement sweeps that keep public sidewalks and parks clear are part of a comprehensive approach to move people into shelters and eventually housing.

"Enforcement only is a failed effort because what happens is once you do enforcement or sweeps in one neighborhood, people move to the next street or even just down the road," said state Rep. Sylvia Luke, a member of the governor's leadership team on homelessness and chairwoman of the House Finance Committee.

Three months after city crews began their sweeps through Kakaako, a homeless encampment is once again sprouting up.

"You can't just drop them off at a shelter and just say OK, our job is done -- because clearly if these are the same people who return back to Kakaako. It's not working," said Luke.

The state now wants to form its own crews to clear homeless campers from state land.

Under the governor's proposal, $1.6 million would be earmarked for sweeps. Some $790,000 would create two maintenance crews under the state Department of Transportation, and would be tasked with year-round daily efforts. Another $450,000 would be to fund law enforcement. And $400,000 would cover the cost of storing the personal property homeless people might leave behind.

Homeless advocates say the focus of the state's homeless efforts needs to be on affordable housing. "Moving them from the streets into shelter is obviously a good thing, but we want to focus on the end goal which is permanent housing for all these individuals and these households," said Scott Fuji, executive director of PHOCUSED (Protecting Hawaii's Ohana Children Under Served Elderly and Disabled).

A good chunk of Gov. David Ige's requested $10.8 million would do that.

Ige wants $3 million to go to the state's Housing First initiative and another $2 million for rapid rehousing efforts. Officials also estimate it will cost them $900,000 to operate an old Kakaako shed they're turning into a transitional shelter.

Experts say that's the kind of multi-faceted approach that's needed.

"If you really want to look at ending homelessness for these individuals and these families, it's got to provide money for services and support for
affordable housing developments, rental support," Fuji said.

Lawmakers say they're vetting the governor's proposal.

"It's not just enforcement -- but best use of shelters, best use of public housing. How do we push people into section eight or place them at the
state hospital if they need intensive or extensive services?" Luke asked.

Ige plans to reveal more on his plan to tackle homelessness during his State of the State address on Monday.

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