Homeless families, individuals find housing in wake of Kakaako sweeps
  • Saturday, November 17, 2018
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Hawaii News

Homeless families, individuals find housing in wake of Kakaako sweeps

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / 2017

    “Today (Wednesday) we had five people go into shelter. We really are trying to make the connections and get to the root of how we can find a permanent solution.”

    Scott Morishige

    State’s homeless coordinator

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While dozens of homeless people swept out of Kakaako parks set up new campsites in mauka parts of Kakaako, social service outreach workers also moved two homeless Kakaako families into public housing.

The families — a family of two and a family of five — had been on a two-year waiting list to get into public housing, said Scott Mori­shige, the state’s homeless coordinator.

“When the Section 8 public housing wait list opened two years ago, we went out and tried to sign up as many people as we could for public housing and Section 8 (vouchers), and now they’re being called up on the list,” Morishige said. “We really have been working closely with outreach providers to connect people with these resources.”

Outreach workers from Kalihi-Palama Health Center will continue to offer housing and homeless services to chronically homeless throughout Kakaako, but it often takes multiple approaches before some agree to accept help, he said.

“It underscores the complexities of homelessness,” Morishige said. “Sometimes people don’t always get off the street the first time we encounter them.”

The families who moved into public housing were in addition to a family of four that was placed into the state’s Family Assessment Center near Kakaako Waterfront Park in the aftermath of Monday’s night’s first-ever sweep by Honolulu police in the Kakaako state parks.

Two homeless adults also agreed to move into Waikiki Health’s Next Step Shelter, on the ewa edge of Kakaako Waterfront Park.

And on Wednesday, Mori­shige said social service workers, the state Department of Transportation and state Department of Land and Natural Resources also teamed up to move five homeless people from various homeless encampments into different shelters.

Two people living along Nimitz Highway in the Iwilei area agreed to go into the Waianae Civic Center shelter and another from the area relocated to the Institute for Human Service’s women’s shelter in Iwilei; One person living nearby on Sand Island went into the city’s Hale Mauliola navigation center on Sand Island run by IHS; And one person living in Kaimuki near Kapahulu and Harding avenues also went to Next Step, Morishige said.

While large-scale sweeps get most of the public’s attention, Morishige said this week’s successful efforts to move some chronically homeless people off the street represents “a typical day for my office.”

“Today we had five people go into shelter,” he said. “We really are trying to make the connections and get to the root of how we can find a permanent solution.”

On Wednesday, the Hawaii Community Development Authority’s board of directors voted unanimously to transfer Kakaako Waterfront Park, its sister parks and other smaller state-owned properties in Kakaako to the city. For years, homeless people had been avoiding sweeps by moving back and forth between the state-owned parks and city sidewalks.

When exactly the title to the approximately 41 acres of land will transfer from the state to the city is unknown, said Garrett Kamemoto, the HCDA’s interim executive director.

“The lawyers still need to work out a number of details,” Kamemoto said. “We’re hoping to do it quickly. At this point, the board has given us our direction. Now it’s a matter of working out all the legalities.”

The HCDA board voted 7-to-0, with two absences, to approve the land transfer.

The board previously approved continuing to fund $600,000 in maintenance and security contracts through June 30, 2019, at the city’s request, Kamemoto said.

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