State opts not to send new funds to program that kept 1000s from - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

State opts not to send new funds to program that kept 1000s from streets

Scott Morishige, the governor's homelessness czar (Image: Hawaii News Now) Scott Morishige, the governor's homelessness czar (Image: Hawaii News Now)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A program responsible for keeping thousands of people from ending up on the streets is almost out of money.

Since April, Aloha United Way has been in the business of housing. That's when the state called on the nonprofit to dole out nearly $5 million in emergency funds to residents on the brink of homelessness.

The program used $779,032 to help 577 homeless adults and 383 homeless children move into permanent housing.

But the majority of the funding — $2.3 million — has gone towards keeping people in their homes by providing them with three months of rental assistance.

And over the past nine months, the program has far exceeded goals, helping 987 households (1,681 adults and 1,597 children) keep a roof over their heads with an average payout of $2,200 per household.

The program was so successful it got a special mention in Gov. David Ige's State of the State. 

But the state says it has no plan to fund the program again.

"This specific program was a one-time emergency program brought up under the emergency proclamation," said Scott Morishige, the governor's homeless coordinator. "It's time to pivot from crisis response to a long-term resolution."

Norm Baker, who heads up the project, said when the program was launched, he quickly realized that one of Hawaii's greatest needs is temporary rental subsidies for households that have fallen on hard times.

"For every homeless person we helped, there were three people going through the eviction process," he said.

When asked what will happen if the program isn't funded again, Baker said, "The numbers will go up. I would say that's almost a certainty."

The state, meanwhile, said that new funding for the program would require legislative approval and competition between agencies with no promise the successful AUW program will continue.

State officials point out that it still supports homeless prevention, with $7 million proposed in the governor's budget.  Meanwhile, AUW is trying to find donors to keep its program afloat.

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