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Caldwell promises to fight chronic homelessness on Oahu

By Gordon Pang

LAST UPDATED: 02:16 p.m. HST, Apr 03, 2013

Mayor Kirk Caldwell, in his first state-of-the-city speech this morning, said he is pushing a "Housing First" initiative to address homeless issues on Oahu that will focus on placing people chronically without shelter into homes first before addressing other problems they may be experiencing such as joblessness, drug use or mental illness.

Caldwell, in an advanced copy of his first state-of-the-city speech at Mission Memorial Auditorium, said that without having the basic need of housing in place, "Can you imagine how hard it must be to get better, to get some stability in your life? By focusing on housing first, we can get the homeless off our streets, parks, bus stops, and doorways, and return these areas to the public."

While many homeless are already in shelters, there are many visible in Waikiki, Chinatown and other parts of urban Honolulu, Caldwell said. "For the near-term, we need to find a temporary solution to get people off of the streets, out of the parks, and to places where they will receive safe shelter and social services."

Caldwell said newly appointed Housing Director Jun Yang will work with Community Services Director Pam Witty-Oakland and her staff and state Coordinator on Homelessness Colin Kippen "to develop immediate, mid-range and long-term plans for combating homelessness."

No cost estimates or other specifics were mentioned, although Yang and Witty-Oakland have previously stressed the need to work closely with the not-for-profit and private sectors to address homelessness concerns.

"We need to expand our Housing First initiative and find other innovative alternatives that can serve our needs until we are able to provide more low-income and work force housing for our people," Caldwell said.

Caldwell that he will also sign Bill 7 (2013), which would make it tougher to place tents or other objects on city sidewalks for long periods, if approved by the City Council.

"The law we are working with today, the Stored Property Ordinance, is a first step," Caldwell said. "But, the public should know that every time the Department of Facility Maintenance removes property from the sidewalks, it costs around $15,000 for two days of work - one day to tag and the next day to remove," the mayor said. "We need to approach this serious and growing problem with compassion, and I am making it a top priority."

Caldwell also announced a push to make Honolulu an "age-friendly" city in coordination with AARP Hawaii.

The city will develop a plan of action to be implemented over the next three years. "We need to devote more resources to serve our kupuna, and going forward, we need to make sure that our planning, our infrastructure, our transportation services, our roads and our streets, are more age-friendly," Caldwell said.

Examples include improving HandiVan service and making it easier to obtain permits for home improvements to help aging-in-place, the mayor said.

During his speech, Caldwell also re-emphasized his five priorities for Honolulu.

The continued restoration of bus routes eliminated last year and an ambitious plan to pour $150 million into repaving roads are tops on the list for Caldwell, who took office Jan. 2.

The mayor also brought up his administration's commitment to build a second "digester"todayat the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant and plans to repair and improve Thomas Square and other city parks.

This year's speech is somewhat unusual in that it is coming three months into the new year. Typically, Honolulu mayors have delivered their speeches in February, partly to unveil their agendas in advance of submitting their budgets to the City Council. Budgets are required to be delivered by March 1.

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Maneki_Neko wrote:
No cost estimates or other specifics were mentioned...

So, essentially, this was just a bunch of hot air. Lots pf words, no plans, no funding, no nothing. Nice job, Kirk.

on April 3,2013 | 08:43AM
what wrote:
I work and pay plenty of taxes, and don't want to see money squandered on ineffective efforts. If Caldwell can find an effective way to deal with the homeless problem, fine, but I don't want him squandering millions of dollars on feel-good efforts, only to end up with just as many homeless as we have now. Money would be better spent on real things like road repair, waste, sewage, etc. And by the way, raise bus fares to more fair level so that there is enough money for transit services like Handi-Van to not have to raid the road repair fund.
on April 3,2013 | 10:40AM
daniwitz13 wrote:
it's always say one thing but do another. they talk from the two side s of their mouth. The left hand don't know what the right hand is doing scenario. They are talking about a lot for the homeless can sleep in their cars. My Brother in law is homeless and slept in his car way off the road and got a ticket for that, the same thing they are proposing here. Keep getting tickets forced him to rent a cheap place far away, (more gas) he still sleeps in the brush. He tries to survive cleaning and clearing peoples property. Recently, the owner said he would pay him $100 to haul his rubbish to to the dump. unfortunate for him the truck did not have an emblem and safety sticker and a rear view mirror. he barely got far and ticketed. His fines totaled more than $400 trying to gain $100 and will have to appear in Court. The driver is cited, not the owner. Now is out more than $500 dollars with the $1oo he did not make for the haul. His Wife 62, recently died living in the brush with him. he's all alone trying to survive but they system punishes him more. it seems that the raises for the Mayor has to be gotten from someone, right? Too bad they do not give out raises to the poor, instead get shafted Down. Pity.
on April 3,2013 | 12:23PM
Grimbold wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on April 3,2013 | 01:16PM
allie wrote:
true..he looks weak
on April 3,2013 | 01:42PM
Dragonman wrote:
very weak ! !
on April 3,2013 | 02:16PM
false wrote:
I didn't vote for ole wimpy but the majority did. Now everyone suffers till 2016.
on April 3,2013 | 04:39PM
otoko wrote:
I hope Mayor Caldwell is able to produce tangible results with the issues he's chosen to make his top priority. It is a step in the right direction and if his administration can help the homeless successfully, it could be a model for other cities around the globe! G O O D . L U C K . M A Y O R !
on April 3,2013 | 08:55AM
bender wrote:
Wait a minute. Last week his top priority was fixing the roads.
on April 3,2013 | 09:59AM
OldDiver wrote:
Being Mayor is about addressing all problems affecting the city. This is why voters rejected the single issue candidate.
on April 3,2013 | 11:33AM
Allenk wrote:
I thought Kirk's issue was "da Rail."
on April 3,2013 | 11:39AM
2_centz wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on April 3,2013 | 12:17PM
pakeheat wrote:
Yeah, make rail right, of course he will, LOL. Homelessness, what do to with the chronic and the mentally ill? You will not solve this Mayor!
on April 3,2013 | 12:30PM
allie wrote:
agree..a really bad project
on April 3,2013 | 03:28PM
hikine wrote:
I have a feeling that the new gas tax hike will again be diverted to fund other projects like the previous administrations had done. Our roads will be once again ignored! It's already been proven by studies that some homeless people would not stay at a shelter and want their 'freedom' instead and not follow house rules which shelters imposes. Homeless families will benefit from Kirk's plan but then again the tax payers are paying for it which we're already struggling to make ends meet ourselves.
on April 3,2013 | 12:31PM
Dragonman wrote:
Multi-tasking its called
on April 3,2013 | 02:17PM
al_kiqaeda wrote:
Let's not make Honolulu a destination resort area for mainland homeless!
on April 3,2013 | 09:09AM
allie wrote:
it already is
on April 3,2013 | 10:31AM
what wrote:
If you feed them, they will come. If you cloth them, they will come. If you comfort them, they will come.
on April 3,2013 | 12:21PM
tiki886 wrote:
If you legalize MJ, they will come. If you legalize gambling, they will come.

yes ee can, if "we" limit these freebies to Molokai.

on April 3,2013 | 02:34PM
LadyNinja wrote:
A few excellent comments here. Part of the problem is that this Mayor is too accomodating, changing his platform from going to please to willing to please may be a good idea. However, allowing homeless to camp on city parks and even city hall signals that he is FOR them, not against. While the problem of being homeless is a reality, we need to get tougher laws to get these people into shelters, for the mainland turned Hawaii wannabees, they need to go back to where they came from, provide the ticket, provide something for them to go back to the state where they belong and have family, not make it a bigger problem! Get tough Mayor and put the money where the smile is, I hope that voting for you was a great choice and not one that I regret. Get HPD involved so that we can move these people off the streets and so that the rest of the population can once again enjoy the parks and other recreational areas.
on April 3,2013 | 09:19AM
MakaniKai wrote:
LadyNinja - Excellent post - I agree. Aloha
on April 3,2013 | 10:00AM
allie wrote:
on April 3,2013 | 10:31AM
loquaciousone wrote:
How in the world can you fix the homeless problem if people in high places consider $96K a year affordable median income and $50K a year a manageable low income? At those numbers, half the population in Hawaii should be homeless.
on April 3,2013 | 09:38AM
serious wrote:
If we got rid of the Jones Act our cost of living would go down drastically and therefore that $50K a year would go a lot further. THAT'S what the Mayor and Governor should be fighting for--our congressional delegation, like the former ones, are brain dead on this.
on April 3,2013 | 10:10AM
OldDiver wrote:
It's the cost of land which is the main driver of our cost of living. The getting rid of the Jone Act will hardly solve that problem.
on April 3,2013 | 11:36AM
inlanikai wrote:
But it *will* help. Ya know, just like the Rail won't be "getting rid of" the congestion on H-1, but it will help. And getting rid of the Jones Act won't cost $5.27 billion either.
on April 3,2013 | 01:16PM
serious wrote:
I agree the cost of land is the main driver for the cost of HOUSING. But not food, essentials, gas, on and on.
on April 3,2013 | 04:07PM
tiki886 wrote:
55% of Hawaii households own their own home. The problem is not "affordability". Even more public housing like Mayor Wright and KPT would not help the homeless.
on April 3,2013 | 11:59AM
pakeheat wrote:
They can't even work
on April 3,2013 | 12:31PM
false wrote:
Seriously, some singles and families really need housing but their are many and I mean many that you can't get into housing since they don't WANT to be. Go ask the people living under the via duct or many be some who have their "beach front property."
on April 3,2013 | 09:42AM
hokumakakilo wrote:
Sorry Mr Mayor, unless you find a way to force the mentally ill to take medication, your plan will NOT work. The majority of homeless are mentally ill, and refuse to live indoors because of that illness. The drug users also refuse, because they do not want to abide by shelter rules. Homeless shelters all over the island have empty beds that the aforementioned refuse to go to. I know, because I used to have to deal with the homeless daily in my work The ACLU did them a disservice when they managed to get the mentally ill out of the hospitals in the 1960s. Unless we make it a crime to not take medication, or a crime to be homeless, there will be no solution. I say bring back the hospitalization. But the way the laws are now we can't. They can't be hospitalized unless they are found to be a danger to themselves or others. And that is a very high bar that was set by the courts. For instance, eating out of dumpsters, waste stained clothes, and filthiness is not considered a "danger to themselves" by the courts and docs. They have to actively try to hurt or kill themselves to get that designation. Good luck, but good money wasted, I think.
on April 3,2013 | 09:43AM
pakeheat wrote:
Agreed! They never address the mentally ill and the chronic users.
on April 3,2013 | 12:33PM
bender wrote:
I can see it coming. New housing to be built to house the chronics while the homeless familities are stuck in the usual shelters. We/ve already witnessed this happening at the Waialua Senior Citizen Housing. Because it receives federal funds they have to accept chronics in place of seniors. Now the place is drug hq in the area. Fights every night, broken cars littering the area, units in bad state of repair and the remaining seniors cower in their units, afraid to to out in the evening because of the bullies that live next door. Thanks, but no thanks. Instead of putting out the welcome mat, put out the "keep out" signs.
on April 3,2013 | 10:07AM
false wrote:
Kirk: Why don't you just raise property taxes to fund these programs? That way as you make more homeowners homeless there will be a blue tarp program waiting for them.
on April 3,2013 | 10:11AM
Bdpapa wrote:
We know the causes of the Homeles, alcoholism, drugs, mental illness etc. Now, how you gonna force them off the streets?
on April 3,2013 | 10:14AM
pakeheat wrote:
Good Luck!
on April 3,2013 | 12:33PM
ShibaiDakine wrote:
Like his predecessors, the new mayor on the block continues to spout off a list of feel-good initiatives while ignoring the fundamentals of municipal management. Like the state, the city/county of Honolulu is way behind in their payments due the public workers health trust fund. Any revenue spent on any project without first making the required annual payment to the trust fund results in an increase in the accrued liability. It is just like borrowing by taking out an equity loan against your house, with interest payments later due before the actual debt (principal) is paid down. Budgets for the past four years, including this years, did not allocate enough funds to make the required minimum annual contribution as defined by the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB). They all have been stuck in the failed social progressive's paradigm of tax, spend and borrow and continue to leading Honolulu down the road to fiscal disaster, not unlike Stockton, CA which just went into bankruptcy. The fact that the highway/road infrastructure, sewers and basic customer services are so bad should be a wakeup call to any chief executive that the trolley is way off the track. Unfortunately, Mayor Caldwell has not shown that he is ready to accept this reality and is resorting to the same political pandering and gamesmanship that brought us to the unsatisfactory state of affairs we are now in.
on April 3,2013 | 10:55AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
Seems like we have another problem, paying employees $15,000 for just two days of tagging and bagging.
on April 3,2013 | 10:57AM
rayhawaii wrote:
Good luck and better try than nothing. Once these homeless but mostly helpless hear help is on the way, they tell their friends to move here. Nice weather, free food everywhere from the churches and no need work, just drink or take drugs all day, more will come. Go talk to a few of them but don't bring a reporter or the media. Just act like them and they will spill everything out why they left the wife and kids. I know, talked to one guy who told his friend and his friend moved here. Most don't want to work, just drink.
on April 3,2013 | 11:02AM
thomas1 wrote:
Just take away all the free services and they will stop being homeless. You can be homeless and survive without some kind of outside help. Volunteers who feed the homeless near the Aquarium and Kapiolani Park draw the homeless with free food. Free water from the park, free electricity at the base of light poles to charge electronics, and intimidated tourist giving money to aggressive, stink, crazy people will all attract homelessness. Make it suck to be homeless in Hawaii and they will either go back to where they came from or they will go to the existing homeless shelters. This dump state and city just keep adding services when they should be taking them away. Use to money to add a larger police presence in Waikiki instead.
on April 3,2013 | 11:17AM
eoe wrote:
Maybe it's time we bring back the metro squad. I am willing to bet a dozen hard cops with billy clubs, paired with free tickets to the mainland, would take care of the homeless problem within a month.
on April 3,2013 | 11:29AM
mcc wrote:
Take care of taggers and will clear the "occupy" people out. Bring them back!
on April 3,2013 | 06:34PM
Lowcal_Boy wrote:
There is something terribly wrong with a system where you need to get a permit to camp in the parks but you can camp on a sidewalk without the need of a permit because it's "free speech". This seems like the problem that needs to be addressed before money is spent on anything else.
on April 3,2013 | 11:37AM
nitpikker wrote:
on April 3,2013 | 11:38AM
Mythman wrote:
Don't get me started about the C&C of Honolulu's historic and ongoing role in native Hawaiian poverty, landlessness and homelessness........
on April 3,2013 | 11:49AM
Tony91 wrote:
The fact is, for the majority of the folks on the streets here, homelessness is a lifestyle choice. The empty beds in the shelters all over the state attest to that. Until homelessness/vagrancy is criminalized in some fashion, the problem will not go away no matter how much housing is built. If Frank Fasi was still around, this problem would have been solved years ago. A few folks would be upset by his tactics, but at least there would be far fewer homeless people on our streets, parks, and beaches.
on April 3,2013 | 11:50AM
tiki886 wrote:
Dear Mayor Caldwell, a one way ticket on Hawaiian Airlines to Molokai would cost less than $100. "They" would be welcome there with open arms in the Kingdom of Walter Ritte. They are his kind of people. His Majesty Ritte has accomplished to make Molokaians his loyal subjects and is looking for more people to add to his Kingdom to work the taro fields and his ahupua'a.

And when Mayor Alan Arakawa calls to ask what the heck is going on, you can refer him King KamehaRitte. He's got all the answers.

on April 3,2013 | 12:19PM
tiki886 wrote:
Option#2) Mayor Caldwell, if you can convince the Hawaii State Legislature and Gov Abercrombie to allow legalization of MJ but with no export license for any form or derivative of MJ from Molokai, Molokai would attract all the homeless and like minded citizens without having to spend a dime of public monies on airfare. This way, "we" can isolate and contain the political activists and the homeless into one big welfare pot.

Molokai, the Kingdom of Walter Ritte, Kingdom of self sufficiency, live off the land, smoke dope, self medicate without government subsidy, grow taro, fish and live on the beach. There could even be a State owned liquor store where you can buy alcohol and tobacco with food stamps.

The Waikiki Free Clinic will have to move where their main constituency resides. Everybody wins! Heck, I think I would move there. All hail to King Walter Ritte!!

on April 3,2013 | 12:40PM
allie wrote:
sorry..Ritte is a shibai artist. Nothing more
on April 3,2013 | 05:08PM
2_centz wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on April 3,2013 | 12:22PM
false wrote:
Caldwell should go back to wearing glasses instead of contacts . Then, at least, he'll look half intelligent.
on April 3,2013 | 04:52PM
false wrote:
I went back to glasses exclusively because when i make side eye, my contacts pop out.
on April 3,2013 | 06:29PM
evilannie wrote:
Only a few years ago there was a plan for a hosuing first model in Chinatown (River Street). What did people in Hawaii say? "Not in my backyard".....what do the people of Hawaii say about the homeless? "Not in my backyard". It's a never ending cycle here. Not sure why we can't get it together like so many other model program in the mainland where hosuing first has a proven track record. Being in social services for years I have dealt with a variety of homeless people who are homeless for a multitude of reasons. We can not and should not be so quick to stereo type the reasons. We should be working together (what a concept) to find cost effective, proven ways to assist in the reduction of homelessness. It will never be gone but we can at least help some of those that need it get back on their feet.
on April 3,2013 | 12:24PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
That sounds good. But not in my back yard.
on April 3,2013 | 01:09PM
false wrote:
It needs executive leadership. i.e., Kirk Caldwell and Neil Abercrombie.
on April 3,2013 | 01:23PM
false wrote:
It is really a mental health issue. The chronic homeless consist of 75% or more who have mental health issues. Who is supposed to take care of those people? First is the immediate family, and one might ask, how could the immediate family be so thoughtless and let a member of their family live on the streets. The answer is much more complex than a person not wanting to work. The answer lies in the psyche of the mind of the homeless. They have chosen to live as they are; not bathing for months and years at a time, wanting the next day to be their last. What kind of governmental agency handles that kinds of situation? What can the police do to "round up" these homeless and at least get them out of mind's view? How much money do we throw at them? How much money is already thrown at the everyday poverty level person who depends on Food Stamps? Those in political circles certainly know some or all of the answers at a farther advanced stage than your average citizen.
on April 3,2013 | 12:58PM
tiki886 wrote:
Do you realize that Liberalism is a mental disorder? If you commit some of the homeless to mental institutions, you'll also have to lock up a majority of elected Democrats in government.
on April 3,2013 | 01:04PM
false wrote:
on April 3,2013 | 01:23PM
false wrote:
hahahahahaha. First time in history False has answered with a one word commentary, namely his opposite: True.
on April 3,2013 | 01:25PM
retire wrote:
There is a panhandler hanging outside the 7-11 every morining hitting up people going to work for money. Start with him..
on April 3,2013 | 01:04PM
tiki886 wrote:
Don't "feed the birds" and they will go away. They prey on your guilt.
on April 3,2013 | 02:37PM
Mythman wrote:
India has a huge homeless problem. They let them build bamboo and tarp shanties on the beaches. they also use the beaches for ag. once in a while, they bulldoze the structures. then the homeless rebuild them in the same spot. it's a matter of income in India. our problem is exacerbated by how small our land footprint is. the urban footprint can't handle the overload. thank goodness so far the situation isn't negatively impacting tourist flow - when it does, all heck will break loose. In NYC the city bought hotels and puts the homeless in these to get them off the streets.
on April 3,2013 | 01:04PM
HAJAA1 wrote:
Yes! Please clean up town side....sheesh what an absolute crime filled mess it is. Dangerous too.
on April 3,2013 | 01:21PM
false wrote:
Keep away from that area, or are afraid that Kalihi would invade Aina Haina.
on April 3,2013 | 06:15PM
pakeheat wrote:
Kalihi? I think Waianae would be more appropriate, LOL.
on April 3,2013 | 10:11PM
frontman wrote:
One way tickets back to haere they came from on the mainland would be a good start.
on April 3,2013 | 01:27PM
Uncleart66 wrote:
Looks like no one believes the best Mayor money can buy..........
on April 3,2013 | 01:30PM
false wrote:
First set of believers: TheTrain.
on April 3,2013 | 06:28PM
culi wrote:
We will have more homeless people on the streets after the other 49 states put their homeless people on the plane to Hawaii.
on April 3,2013 | 01:49PM
tiki886 wrote:
I wish the other 49 States would have the courtesy to extend the one way trip to include a hop to Molokai.
on April 3,2013 | 02:02PM
false wrote:
Well, there is a certain part of Molokai that is not open to discussion. Perhaps u r referring to that part?
on April 3,2013 | 06:27PM
4watitsworth wrote:
"Caldwell will also sign Bill 7 (2013), which would make it tougher to place tents or other objects on city sidewalks for long periods". Why not just make it so any one cannot place tents or "reside" on sidewalks period! Sidewalks should be used for what it is intended and nothing else. "it costs around $15,000 for two days of work - one day to tag and the next day to remove". Why not do what the police does when cars are parked in no parking areas? Tag them and call for someone to remove it immediately. If the City doesn't have the staff to do this, hire a company to do this. Maybe towing companies can expand their business. : )
on April 3,2013 | 03:33PM
Roosevelt wrote:
In China street people are referenced as "nomads" - an excellent term, emphacizing the individual's choice of a particular lifestyle. Many of the fellows hanging out in Waikiki, Thomas Square and the beaches are receiving federal and state support check (SSI, Social Security, Veteran's Benefits). They choose to avoid paying even subsidized rent in low-income properties by living on the street. I agree that many need psychological assistance, but many more are gaming the system. How do you legally make the distinction? The mayor's plan is open invitiation for mainland nomads to relocate to Hawaii.
on April 3,2013 | 03:48PM
false wrote:
To know the depth of the issue, one must get into the psyche of the homeless, and realize the reasons for those people becoming homeless. Would we pay ten-thousand dollars just to save a homeless person, if the person did not want to be saved? The crux of the matter is "gathering" those people and getting them into shelters so that society in general would not be affected by them. In some sense, prison has that role. What laws could we create to make it illegal for the homeless to be in a certain portion of town?
on April 3,2013 | 06:25PM
false wrote:
Maybe the city can get Genshiro to take in the homeless in return for forgetting the fines on his Kahala houses.
on April 3,2013 | 04:55PM
false wrote:
This is called plea bargaining however does this kind of stuff no only go on in Circuit Court?
on April 3,2013 | 06:18PM
pandadaddy wrote:
You can give each homeless person a free house and a million dollars, it will all be gone in a matter of months.
on April 3,2013 | 07:40PM
rayhawaii wrote:
Jesus talked about feeding the hungry and help the poor. Jesus didn't mean people who aren't willing to take the life God gave them and to try their best to take care of it and be successful an a good example of being a Christian. Jesus talked about those to feed and help the poor when there weren't any jobs to be found and people were starving to death. Millions of people all over the world starving to death and the Christians here are feeding those who just don't want to work and drink all day long or just plain wait for handouts. I climbed a tree to get a coconut one day when I almost ended up homeless. Donated plasma to buy foot to eat. Never got a free handout it the park. You feed the cats sand they will stop hunting the mice or snatching a fish out of the water. The cats will hang around all day laying in the sun waiting for the food to arrive. Same with the birds. Don't feed the helpless for a month and they will start looking for a job and be somebody.
on April 3,2013 | 08:29PM
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