According to the 2018 Homeless Point in Time Count, Hawaiʻi’s homeless numbers decreased for the first time in years. The report shows numbers in Downtown Honolulu, which includes Kakaʻako, were down more than 20.3 percent compared to last year. But numbers in East Honolulu were up 7.8 percent; in ʻEwa, the number increased by 8.2 percent; and on the Waiʻanae Coast the number was up 17.6 percent.
With fewer than half the number of volunteers needed to do an accurate count, and with the city conducting sweeps in the Downtown Honolulu area shortly before the count was conducted, it’s more likely that the current policy of “compassionate disruption” only shuffles homeless families and individuals from community to community, including the communities in District 23. What is needed is real solutions that combine immediate relief with long term, root problem-solving.
Safe Zones: I support efforts to create safe zones to address the immediate crisis. Getting people into an area that is safe and appropriate and where they can receive critical services is an important first step in getting folks off the street so that we can begin to address the root causes of homelessness.
Build Housing: In Salt Lake City, Utah, the state, non-profits and the private sector worked together to building housing specifically for homeless families and individuals. This housing-first policy improved the lives of thousands and resulted in unprecedented cost savings for taxpayers in the long run. The challenge will be developing enough appropriately-priced low-income housing without over-burdening Hawaiʻi’s limited carrying capacity. This is why intelligent government policy is needed in order to effectively interplay with nonprofit and private sector partners to achieve the results we need.
Provide Services: We need to provide medical services for our homeless brothers and sisters, including mental health and substance abuse services. It is critical that we address the actual causes of homelessness, both economic as well as societal. Treating these problems as medical issues—rather than criminalizing the individuals suffering—will appropriately place our chronically homeless population in the services that will help them regain functionality instead of incarcerating them at a high cost to taxpayers.