Advocates: Squabbling between mayor, City Council impeding efforts to help homeless

Advocates: Squabbling between mayor, City Council impeding efforts to help homeless
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Squabbling at Honolulu Hale has stymied efforts aimed at addressing the island's homeless crisis, advocates for the homeless say.

"To see these petty squabbles happen between the City Council and the administration is deplorable," said Kathryn Xian, Executive Director, Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, which helps homeless Oahu. "It also signals that they don't really care about solving the houseless issue."

Advocates says the fighting is slowing or even derailing key initiatives to help the homeless.

Case in point, they say: Last week, the City Council voted to slash nearly $6 million from Mayor Kirk Caldwell's appropriation request for housing programs and homelessness, and even threatened to shut down the city's newest shelter, Hale Mauliola.

While casting their votes, council members complained that the mayor wasn't paying enough attention to their ideas and hadn't come to them until recently to explain his priorities.

Bob Nakata, of the Faith Action for Community Equity Housing task force, said the unfortunate thing is that both the mayor and the City Council have identified homelessness as a key priority.

"There is a chance for some major advances, but some of the political bickering is slowing down progress," he said.

Hawaii News Now sat down with City Council members and the mayor to better understand the issues, and both sides say their issues center around a "communication problem."

"Frustrations have reached new heights," said Councilman Joey Manahan.

Councilman Trevor Ozawa added, "He's the one that goes on TV and says these things about what we're cutting and what we're not, but we don't have the opportunity to discuss it."

Caldwell said that he and council members could do more to seek out compromise.

"I need to do a better job of communicating the reason why we need the money. I think the council and our administration have been talking past each other and not to each other," he said.

But some advocates contend communication isn't the only issue.

"It's politically motivated warfare for the election and  the people who suffer most are the poor," Xian said.

Ozawa and Manahan, meanwhile, say their doors are always open to the mayor. Caldwell has since scheduled meetings with both of them.

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