New pilot project aims to get Oahu’s homeless off the streets

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It’s an approach to Honolulu’s homeless problem that’s never been tried here before.

And that’s why the battle cry from city hall is “Housing First.”

There are what seem to be pockets of homeless downtown, especially Chinatown, Waikiki and Waianae.

The best estimate is there are more than 4,500 homeless on Oahu, 505 of those deemed “chronically homeless.”

The mayor, council and service providers are planning to roll out a “Housing First” pilot project.

“Instead of locating homeless that are chronically homeless with addictions or mental illness into one site, they are going to be scattered throughout the communities in which we find homeless,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Funding for the two year pilot project would come primarily from HUD. It’s estimated to cost between three and $4.9 million.

“We as service providers want to make sure that we’re implementing that model in a fair, strategic manner. And we want to ensure that every homeless individual has the opportunity or the chance to have a home in the community they live in and not necessarily putting all people in one area and saying this is where the services are,” said U.S. Vet, Darryl Vincent.

“The mayor and service providers were quick to point out, this is not a one size fits all pilot project. What might work for homeless here downtown near the medical school, might not be the same approach that would work for those in Waikiki or Waianae,” said Kirk Matthews.

What could it mean for taxpayers? It costs $15,000 for the “stored property” law – when the city removes tents and other materials from the sidewalk for two days. It would cost about $12,000 A YEAR for rental subsidy for homeless.

The mayor’s office was filled with council members and service providers who back the Housing First pilot project.

“We want to assure the council that no moneys that are currently used for homeless are taken away from providers,” said council member Kymberly Pine.

It will take a while for the pilot project to gain traction – the first homeless person to benefit may not enter the program until January.

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