Legislators say "housing first" not the only solution

Legislators say "housing first" not the only solution
Published: Aug. 6, 2015 at 9:35 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 6, 2015 at 10:42 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - While Honolulu City and County and State leaders appear united in their fight to stop homelessness tension is building behind the scenes. At the center of the debate the Housing First strategy.

The State, City and County and local philanthropists all have their own homeless programs, but they all have implemented a Housing First strategy. It's a plan which calls for getting a roof over the homeless before providing supportive services. However, not all are not convinced Housing First is the cure all.

"We've had zero fallout in our state housing first program with 75 individuals," said Darryl Vincent, Chief Operating Officer of U. S. Vets.

U.S. Vets and Vincent have been helping Hawaii's homeless for nearly 13 years. Last year, for $1.5 million, U. S. Vets contracted with the State to provide shelter for the chronically homeless. It used the housing first philosophy. It was an approach that some legislators say might not be the most cost effective.

"A lot of that population has mental issues and other type of issues," said Rep. Sylvia Luke, (D) Makiki, Punchbowl, Nuuanu. "Placing them in a home is not going to be the right solution."

Vincent disagrees.

"It's very effective if you surround them with the right services and make sure those services are continuing and you don't let go too soon," said Vincent.

"It's been great and we think this kind of coordinated, concerted effort really works," said Kelvin Taketa, President and CEO of the Hawaii Community Foundation.

HCF is helping homeless families using private funds. Its Housing A.S.A.P. program is modeled after Housing First.

"Four million dollars over 3 years is not a lot of money, but at the same time so far 200 more families are in stable housing," said Taketa. "We think that's a good sign"

The City and County of Honolulu are also big fans.

"October 31st of this year we will have housed 115 chronically homeless households," said Jun Yang, Executive Director of Honolulu's Office of Housing. "We're well on track to meeting that need."

Despite the results, legislators say their funding needs to help more than just the chronically homeless.

"It is about supporting things like Housing First that help the chronically homeless," said Sen. Jill Tokuda, (D) Kaneohe, Kailua. "But we cannot do that at the expense, or forget, that we also have so many out there in the community that are also needing of our help."

Legislators all agree homelessness is going to be a hot topic at the Capital next session. Finding the dollars to support the fight will be heated. But unless more apartments and houses become available for homeless families, living on the street may continue to be the only option.

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