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Caldwell's project to house chronically homeless

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 7:11 p.m. HST, May 9, 2013

Mayor Kirk Caldwell unveiled a Housing First plan to address homeless issues that aims for providing housing units for up to 100 people across Oahu by the end of 2015.

The plan says those in the program would be placed in “scattered-site supportive housing” in areas across the island as opposed to a singular site.

The “demonstration project” is the centerpiece for the Housing First initiative submitted to the City Council today. The project is expected to cost between $3 million and $4.9 million over two years, or $30,000-$48,000 per person helped.

The plan will place people “throughout the communities where we find the homeless,” Caldwell said at a press conference this afternoon. “They need to be housed where they reside right now.”

The plan would target homeless populations in Waikiki, Chinatown and the Waianae Coast, the three areas identified as having the greatest number of homeless, city housing coordinator Jun Yang said.

The 75-100 people that are to be helped accounts for 15-20 percent of the estimated 505 chronically homeless population on the island as determined by a state “point in time” count this past January.

Flanked by three Council members, state homelessness official Colin Kippen and representatives from agencies that provide shelter and services to the homeless, administration officials said the cost is minimal compared to the social cost caused by keeping any one person homeless.

The administration is seeking only one full-time position and an additional $150,000 in the operating budget for the 2014 fiscal year. Proceeds would come from existing federal housing sources, assuming the plan gains the approval of a majority of Council members.

The Housing First philosophy is based on the principle that putting a roof over a person’s head should take precedent over the “treatment first philosophy” that attempts to fix the ills that often lead a person to homelessness such as drug or alcohol addiction, mental illness and joblessness.

Advocates for the homeless have long argued that housing offered to those most in need should not be dependent on participation in programs that deal with addictions or mental illness since many are reluctant to participate in such programs.

The Housing First model, according to the summary of draft report being issued today, “removes the barriers of mandatory treatment program enrollment, and provides permanent supportive housing directly from streets and shelters.”

The report says the city will continue to compile data on “all usable city property for the purposes of homeless residential developments and safe zones” although initial accounts are there a few usable lands or buildings.

Safe zones, or “safe camping facilities,” offer a “stop gap alternative” that should be explored further, but is not “considered a viable permanent solution,” the report said.

Mayor Caldwell's Homeless Action Plan

Mayor's homeless plan supporting documents

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