The state continues to fight homelessness in Hawaii.
Gov. David Ige pledged Thursday to allocate $12 million to combat the issue.
The plan is to get more people into permanent housing by building 10,000 affordable units in the next four years, expanding homeless outreach, and providing more funds for property storage and cleanup.
“There is no quick fix to homelessness. There is no shortcut,” Ige said. “It really is about being focused, consistent, and striving to make a difference each and every day.”
Officials say a year ago, there were 300 homeless people in Kakaako. While they’ve helped more than 280 of them move into housing, there are still thousands of homeless people throughout the state.
The departments of Human Services and Health say they’re taking a multi-generational approach, called ‘Ohana Nui, that invests early and concurrently in children and families to improve health, education, employment, and other outcomes.
LEVER 1: AFFORDABLE HOUSING (FUNDED SEPARATELY)
The first lever in the state’s framework is a high priority for legislators and the administration. Funding for this focus area is coming from separate budgets, but the $12M is helping to complement those efforts.
LEVER 2: HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES ($9.4M)
There will be $6M in new funding for Rapid Re-Housing (or rental subsidies) and Housing First (an evidence-based program that houses and supports chronically homeless individuals suffering from severe mental health conditions, substance abuse or other issues). Half of the Housing First resources will go to neighbor islands.
An additional $1.4M in funding will support the state’s Family Assessment Center being constructed in Kakaako. This includes $500k for renovations and $900k for operating costs for two years.
LEVER 3: PUBLIC SAFETY ($1.925M)
Public safety refers to keeping public places safe and open for everyone. Scott Morishige, the governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness, emphasized that government has an obligation to respond to encampments on public land. Also, the state’s public safety protocol allows the state to properly address areas where it is unsafe for people to live.
“This is not to criminalize homelessness,” Morishige said. “We want to connect people with shelter or housing, not just move them from place to place.” The budget sets aside $1.9M in new funding for state departments such as the Department of Transportation, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Public Safety Division and the Hawaii Community Development Authority for enforcement-related activities.
DATA & INFRASTRUCTURE ($675,000)
In addition, $325,000 in new funding will be used for data collection and analysis. “We have to be able to measure progress,” Morishige said. There is also $350,000 in new funding for state-owned homeless shelter renovations and upgrades.
The additional funding in service dollars reflects a nearly 60 percent increase. “This will address Hawaii’s most visible and chronic homeless population that we see on the streets and sidewalks,” Morishige said.