Business leaders to sleep at state Capitol in hopes of finding solutions to homelessness

Business leaders to sleep at state Capitol in hopes of finding solutions to homelessness

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With cardboard and blankets, a group of Hawaii's leaders will gather for a second year this month to sleep on the state Capitol's cold concrete.

The Salvation Army CEO Sleepout is aimed at helping Hawaii's movers and shakers gain a greater understanding of homelessness — and sparking new ideas to help.

Scott Sivik, president of Ohana Health Plan, participated in last year's sleepout and said the experience was "very unsettling."

"I think maybe an hour's worth of real sleep throughout the night between the sirens, people moving around and cardboard rusting in the wind," he said. 

"It was an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience," said Sivik.

John Chamness, divisional leader of The Salvation Army Hawaiian & Pacific Islands Division, said the event "gave us who slept out here at the state Rotunda a little bit of the feeling what the homeless community goes through when they are sleeping on the streets at night,."

"It is a social issue that we cannot allow to continue. We can't allow men, women and children to sleep on our streets," said Chamness.

While The Salvation Army offers an array of services for the homeless and those living on the edge, it's dealing with a challenging situation of its own. After Hawaii County swept the homeless from the Old Kona Airport Park last month, some campers moved onto Salvation Army property nearby.

"We are not going to make it worse for families or individuals by kicking them out of our property," Chamness said. "We simply want to help them come up with a solution."

That solution, experts say, is more affordable housing and treating the homeless as individuals.

The Salvation Army CEO Sleepout runs from 6 p.m. Sept. 22 to 6 a.m. Sept. 23.

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