Homelessness may not be getting worse, but it isn’t getting better.
That’s the collective sentiment of respondents in the Hawaii News Now/Star Advertiser poll when asked about the homeless problem over the last 12 months. Forty-seven percent said it was worse this year than last, and 40 percent said it’s about the same. In 2015, 76 percent said it was worse than the year before, and 20 percent said it was the same.
Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell sees it differently. "We've made a lot of progress. Between last year and last week, we've now housed 747 veterans," he said.
The public was almost evenly split on whether or not that can be considered a good job. A total of 47 percent said Caldwell is doing a good job, 48 percent said he’s not. So how would he improve his efforts if re-elected? He said by improving city and state coordination.
"What happens is we share information and we go back to our silos and make decisions".
Former mayor Peter Carlisle agrees. "I think there is always a certain degree of a challenge when you're dealing with multiple government organizations."
The public feels similarly. Fifty-nine percent of respondents feel Governor Ige is not doing a good job on homelessness.
Carlisle said he has a strategy for improving the situation. "There are people who are in the homeless population who are clearly criminals. So with those people you intervene with the usual level of law enforcement."
For those who aren’t criminals, he added, "Individualized intervention and consequences, and the consequences could be just the change in the dose of medicine."
So who does the administering?
"Government should be stepping back and stepping out of the way," said fellow mayoral candidate Charles Djou. He said the city is ill-equipped to handle the issue.
"We have to deal with city bureaucracy. We have to deal with procurement rules. We have to deal with civil service rules. I would take all our money dedicated for the city and instead of having the city do it, give it to those nonprofits."