OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - City officials are at odds with leeward lawmakers over what's causing an increase in Waianae's homeless population.
Over the last few months, city administrators began providing one-way rides for homeless individuals in urban Honolulu out to shelters across the island, including the west side.
The initiative's purpose is to encourage the homeless to get into shelters by giving them the choice of where they wanted to go.
Since the program began however, Waianae residents have complained about a noticeable increase in the area's homeless population.
In the last point-in-time homeless count for Oahu, the urban Honolulu area saw a 20 percent decrease in its homeless population, while Waianae saw an 18 percent increase.
"I am angry and disappointed with the City and County of Honolulu for adopting such a policy where they take one community's issues and place the burden on another for political expediency and the sake of urban Honolulu and the tourist economy," said Rep. Cedric Gates, in the joint statement.
Sen. Maile Shimabukuro expressed similar sentiments.
"The houseless population on the Waianae Coast has swelled and is out of control," Shimabukuro said in the statement. "I receive constant complaints from residents about the loss of access to public parks and facilities."
The city, however, says that allegations that their initiative has anything to do with Waianae's homeless increase — are false.
Since the city's homeless outreach project began in April, 80 people have been moved off of urban Honolulu streets and into shelter, detox, or hospital facilities, according to city officials, in a statement responding to the one released by leeward lawmakers.
Just last Thursday, 23 people were relocated from a Honolulu park and into shelters across the island.
Of those 80, about 17 have been transferred to the shelter operated by U.S. veterans at the Waianae Civic Center, and of the 17 taken there, 11 remain.
Three people relocated with family members, one person decided to go to another shelter, and only two left the shelter to unknown whereabouts.
City officials maintain that the trips to shelters on the Leeward coast are based on the homeless individual's prerogative, and that very few of the homeless people taken there left the shelter.
"One of the principles of Housing First and the Caldwell administration is that clients who agree to go into shelters and receive services are provided a choice of where they would like to go," the city's statement read.
"The city never forces anyone to go where they don't want to, as this would not lead to successful outcomes and be against the law."