Bills would fund homeless initiative
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Hawaii News

Bills would fund homeless initiative

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Some of the homeless that are camped outside of the barriers erected around Thomas Square Park in Honolulu, as seen on Jan. 26. Key Hawaii lawmakers are hoping to secure $3.5 million annually over the next two years to continue a program that has been credited with helping hundreds of families in the past year escape or avoid homelessness.

Key Hawaii lawmakers are hoping to secure $3.5 million annually over the next two years to continue a program that has been credited with helping hundreds of families in the past year escape or avoid homelessness.

The funding would be used to continue a program called the Coordinated Statewide Homeless Initiative, initiated by Gov. David Ige under an emergency proclamation.

Aloha United Way was given a one-time grant of $5 million, the majority of which — $4.7 million — went toward quickly housing homeless people and helping households on the brink of eviction temporarily cover rent and bills.

Since the program began in April, it’s helped more than 1,400 households comprising 4,300 individuals, according to Aloha United Way. About three-quarters had been at risk of losing housing; the rest were already homeless. Some 64 percent of the households included children.

“We believe that the need for this type of service in our community is critical,” Norm Baker, chief operating officer of Aloha United Way, said Thursday during a news conference at the state Capitol. He was joined by House Vice Speaker John Mizuno and chairmen of the Senate and House committees that oversee housing and human services.

Baker said the need for supplemental housing assistance across the islands exceeded available funds.

“For every homeless person that we placed, there were three folks, three families in the eviction process,” he said.

To continue the program, lawmakers have introduced companion measures, Senate Bill 1107 and House Bill 1240, which would allocate the $3.5 million annual appropriation to a “master contractor” — $525,000 of that would go toward administrative costs.

Aloha United Way is the current master contractor for the Coordinated Statewide Homeless Initiative, working with 20 providers statewide who identify and assist clients.

Mizuno said that if the legislation passes, the contract for services would have to be put out to bid to comply with procurement law, though he noted that Aloha United Way would be well positioned to win the bid because of its past experience.

Scott Morishige, the governor’s homelessness coordinator, said the administration would need to review the proposed legislation further before commenting.

“I think definitely the CSHI program has been effective, but it was meant to be a one-time thing,” he noted.

Morishige said the Ige administration has proposed a long-term expansion of those same services. Ige’s proposed budget includes $2.5 million to quickly move the homeless statewide into housing, and an additional $7 million for a rent supplement program overseen by the Hawaii Public Housing Authority which is designed to prevent households from becoming homeless.

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