Lawmakers propose $5M shelter renovation to entice homeless - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Lawmakers propose $5M shelter renovation to entice homeless

(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)

It's a number that changes on a nightly basis.  

"In our women's dormitory we probably had a handful of vacancies.  Less than 5.  On our men's side we probably had 60 spaces," said Connie Mitchell, Executive Director for the Institute for Human Services.

It's those empty beds at shelters like the IHS and other facilities across the state that caught the attention of lawmaker Sen. Jill Tokuda.  She believes some people won't stay in shelters because of the poor infrastructure and lack of privacy.
"Whether it's privacy screens, whether it's showers or bathrooms.  It sounds very basic.  But sometimes they lack these basic things," said Ways and Means Committee chair, Sen. Jill Tokuda.

The Senator's proposed bill would provide a one time $5 million appropriation that would be distributed among homeless shelters across the state.  Much of that money would go towards renovations.  

It would also provide the Department of Human Services enough to hire two additional staff.  Their job:  keep a close eye on how many people move through those shelters.  If the state says they're not serving enough people a shelter's funding could be cut.

"We pay them regardless of how many people show up there each night.  We want to make sure we're getting what we pay for," said Sen. Tokuda.

Some services providers say providing more private living areas with particians like the bill suggests would drastically cut down bed space.  Oahu's  coalition of nonprofit service providers, Partners in Care says that's a concern.  It's not the only red flag.

"Some shelters might not want to take people who are more difficult to serve if you're going to be judged on whether you were about to get them into housing," said Mitchell.

The bill passed the Senate and is on its way to the House. 

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