Council questions why hundreds of homeless shelter beds have vanished or are sitting unused
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Even though Hawaii continues to grapple with a homeless crisis, hundreds of shelter beds on Oahu have either vanished or are sitting empty. The reason? A lot of it appears to boil down to red tape and bureaucracy.
One example is Iwilei’s Homeless Resource Center.
Construction on the project was finished in February, yet the facility ― which includes 27 low income apartments ― remains empty because of failed negotiations with the initial service provider that was chosen to run the place.
It’s been that way four months.
On Tuesday morning, Honolulu City Councilmembers questioned why the $17 million building is just sitting there while homeless are camped outside.
“When can we anticipate the property be put into use,” City Councilmember Esther Kiaaina said.
“It’s a complicated issue because there are multiple parts to the property,” said city Department of Community Services director Anton Krucky. “All of those need to interact well together. You can’t put a drug rehab place right next to a family shelter.”
The facility is one of several intended to help the homeless that are either temporarily suspended or underutilized.
“There is about 270 shelter spaces that have been displaced or suspended because different state contracts are moving,” said Honolulu’s Housing and Homelessness Director Trish La Chica.
That issue impacted one of the island’s only homeless shelters that takes in entire families.
The Family Assessment Center at Kakaako Waterfront Park closed three months ago when its lease ended.
HNN confirmed the state has been searching for a new location going on a year now.
It’s unclear if a contract has been finalized.
“What is the status of the Punawai Clinic? Is it in full operation?” Kiaaina asked of another project, which includes housing and a medical respite facility.
“No, it’s not,” Krucky responded.
Council members urged the the director to work on expediting the underperforming and stalled projects but particularly the homeless resource center.
“The sooner the better,” Kiaaina said. “I understand its complexity. But it’s a shame to have that building with all those, the potential opportunities.”
Krucky interjected, “Yes, I agree with you. But it would also be a shame not to do it correctly.”
Krucky confirmed there’s no timeline for when the Homeless Resource Center will be up and running.
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