'Crisis solutions center' would divert homeless from ERs, jails - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

'Crisis solutions center' would divert homeless from ERs, jails

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Several Honolulu City Council members are supporting the creation of a new center in Honolulu that would treat homeless people experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis.

The "crisis solution center" would be modeled after a similar program in Seattle, and would potentially divert chronically homeless people from jails and emergency rooms.

Councilman Ron Menor said the center would address a dearth of available bed space for psychiatric patients in hospitals.

At the Seattle facility, patients are accepted 24 hours a day and can stay up 72 hours. 

Menor said opening a similar center in Honolulu just makes sense.

Homeless in crisis, he said, "oftentimes end up in the court system. That's resulting in a tremendous amount of resources being expended that could otherwise be saved. Costs could be saved in the long-term if first responders had an alternative place."

The center could be among a number of new projects launched in the upcoming fiscal year to tackle homelessness.

The city has budgeted $20 million for homeless solutions. The money becomes available July 1 and is to be divided equally among the nine districts. 

City Council members have different ideas for how spend the appropriation.

Councilman Joey Manahan wants to use some of it to construct a temporary hygiene center and encampment in his district. He says a state-owned property near Aala Park is a possible site.

"Most immediately if we can get the Porta Potties supervised with some outreach services up and running I think that would help a lot," Manahan said.

Meanwhile, Menor was impressed by a village made up of tiny houses in Seattle. His hope is to have something similar in his district.

"I think this would be a more effective and humane way of addressing homeless in the short term as opposed to the tent encampments," he said.

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