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Hawaii governor releases 90-day homeless plan

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    Ron Cullen gathers his belongings into his blue shopping cart along Keawe Street on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 in Kakaako. Many homeless who have took up residence here were recently kicked out of Kakaako Park and face uncertainty as to where their next move may be.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie said Tuesday he plans to tackle homelessness over the short term with a new 90-day plan that would provide mental health services and help people move into housing.

The governor and his coordinator on homelessness, Marc Alexander, also hope to convince churches and others who feed homeless in public parks not to do so because such efforts give homeless an incentive to stay where they are.

Abercrombie’s team came up with the plan as a way to jump-start their new homeless initiatives in the administration’s early months.

"This puts the pressure on us to deliver," the governor said at a news conference announcing the plan, which takes effect immediately and is due to last through Aug. 17.

The cash-strapped state hasn’t allocated any additional funds for the plan, Abercrombie said. Instead it plans to maximize use of funds already budgeted for homelessness, and attract both federal funding and money from private foundations.

"We’re swimming in the water we’re in. We’re going to take the budgets we have," the governor said.

The plan doesn’t address how to boost affordable housing and increase job training, both of which experts believe are critical to solving the problem. The administration said measures to address these issues would come in a later plan that focuses on longer-term initiatives.

"This idea of a 90-day plan emerged not a solution but as another step. This is a long, long journey," Alexander said.

Even so, Alexander said he hopes a significant number of people will have moved off the street and that people will notice a difference by mid-August..

The plan calls for repairing shelters and getting the most vulnerable directly into housing, where possible.

Alexander noted some people don’t want to go into a shelter but are willing to move into an apartment if one is available. Alexander said a network of homeless service providers and agencies were working to identify units homeless could move into, and some landlords had agreed to participate and have even relaxed their standards regarding credit histories.

Alexander said five people living in Aala Park next to Honolulu’s Chinatown neighborhood have recently moved into permanent housing as part of a similar effort.

The state is also talking to the University of Hawaii’s medical school, insurance groups and community groups about developing more mental health service options for the homeless.

Abercrombie and Alexander also hope to decrease the incentives for people to live in parks and sidewalks — including convincing church groups and others to stop feeding people in parks.


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