Amid homeless crisis, funding for critical homeless programs not yet in budget

Updated: Apr. 1, 2019 at 4:42 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Funding for critical homeless programs like Housing First, homeless outreach and more aren’t yet in the state Legislature’s budget.

And that’s alarming homeless advocates ― and their clients.

Clients like Ricky Crowell, who moved to Hawaii for a second chance but ended up spiraling into drug abuse and homelessness.

“Cost of living was high. Everything here was so expensive. I did what I always did, turn to my escape: Cocaine and methamphetamine,” he said.

Crowell ended up homeless, falling deeper into his addiction ― until a failed attempt to take his life wound up saving him.

“It was time to grow up,” said Crowell. “I went to IHS to ask for help. And they put me on the right path.”

On Monday, Crowell joined a rally at the state Capitol of homeless service providers from across the islands.

Connie Mitchell, executive director of the Institute for Human Services, said the uncertainty over funding isn’t good for anyone.

“We really need to know that the money will be there to continue the services we have,” she said.

In the middle of a decade-long crisis, providers are also puzzled why funding for homeless programs isn’t yet included in the state’s base budget so it’s guaranteed and projects aren’t put in jeopardy.

The ask is $17.2 million.

“We’re not asking for more than we did last year. This is the same amount of money to maintain these core services,” said Brandee Menino, CEO of Hope Services Hawaii.

Providers also pushed for investments in affordable housing and for the improvement of Hawaii’s mental health laws. Lawmakers have until Tuesday to schedule four key bills for a hearing.

“These people have a right to treatment,” said advocate Marya Grambs.

“They literally do not know they’re ill. So that’s why they don’t accept treatment. So this would allow the courts to put some leverage behind it.”

Crowell knows first-hand the importance of some of these programs. Housing first helped him get a one-bedroom apartment. Now, he’s four years sober with a job.

“I started working at IHS,” said Crowell. “Now I am able to help others and show people that I used to be where they are. And not to give up.”

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