One aspect of the homeless crisis: State realizes policing encampments is pricey

One aspect of the homeless crisis: State realizes policing encampments is pricey

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii's homeless crisis is putting a strain on state agencies, which need law enforcement help to deal with homeless-related issues.

And departments have begun asking lawmakers for funding in order to ease the financial impact.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources, for example, is charged with cleaning up dozens of illegal encampments in parks, harbors and other state properties – clean-ups that often require a law enforcement presence.

"We've spent an inordinate amount of money that we didn't have budgeted on ensuring the safety of cleanup workers," explained Robert Farrell, enforcement chief for the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement.

The DLNR is requesting $330,000 in related funds.

Gov. David Ige's administration also wants $419,302 to pay for eight new deputy sheriffs that could respond to complaints about illegal camping and trespassing on state lands.

There is also a $5 million lump sum request in the state Department of Human Services' budget.

"This would include property storage, removal of trash and debris, and also placement of signage or fencing," said Scott Morishige, the governor's coordinator on homelessness.

State law enforcement authorities have had a reactive, piecemeal approach to homelessness, contends state Sen. Will Espero (D-Ewa Beach). He says he wants to make sure the new money isn't wasted.

"What we need to do is make certain that that funding is being spent wisely and efficiently, that there's not duplication, and that at the end of the day, the homeless aren't just going to leave and then a few weeks or a few months later come back," said Espero.

The state has focused on increasing the coordination between departments, said Morishige. The administration wants to be able to transfer funds from the $5 million to any state agency in need.

Last year, the state Department of Transportation and the Hawaii Community Development Authority ended up hiring private contractors for assistance.

"Each state agency has different laws and rules that apply, so again, we want to provide the flexibility for different agencies to respond as appropriate to different situations that they're encountering on their lands," said Morishige.

Morishige said the budget items are just one part of the state's comprehensive approach to homelessness.

Other requests include more than $10 million for services such as Housing First and Rapid Rehousing as well as $75 million for affordable rental housing and infrastructure costs.

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