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Ige forms team to address homeless; Kippen to be replaced

Dan Nakaso
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From left to right: Dale Hahn of Sen. Brian Schatz's office, Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Gov. David Ige, State Senator Jill Takuda, State Rep. Sylvia Luke and Alan Yamamoto met to discuss homelessness issues on Monday.

Gov. David Ige announced the formation of the “Governor’s Leadership Team on Homelessness” to find both short- and long-term answers, but the state’s current homeless czar won’t be part of that effort. 

Colin Kippen, the state coordinator on homelessness and the chairman of the Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness, said he will be out of a job as of Friday. 

Kippen’s email announcement Monday came just before Ige’s afternoon news conference announcing the formation of his team on homelessness. 

Ige was joined by Mayor Kirk Caldwell, state Sen. Jill Tokuda, Rep. Sylvia Luke and representatives from the offices of U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz. 

The team will include Ige and Caldwell, Tokuda, Luke, Director of Human Services Rachael Wong, Council Chairman Ernie Martin, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz’s designee and U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono’s designee. It will consult with law enforcement leaders, nonprofit organizations and other interested parties to assist with implementing short-term objectives. 

“The underlying issues that lead to homelessness, such as lack of affordable housing, cannot be resolved quickly,” Ige said. “Meanwhile, we cannot wait for a comprehensive, long-term solution. There are measures we can take and will take, immediately.” 

Ige’s office said the team will identify and assign parcels of land to be used for the creation of temporary shelters in one or two communities; implement measures to transfer residents of homeless encampments to shelters; work with service providers to establish protocols to assess shelter residents for financial, physical, mental health and other needs; and determine costs and obtain funding to meet these objectives. 

The governor said the team will meet weekly, and work on solutions involving federal, state and city cooperation. 

Ige also said his administration is interviewing candidates to replace Kippen as the state’s homeless coordinator. 

In an email, Kippen said he had been “informed by the director of the Department of Human Services that effective close of business, Friday, July 31, 2015, my appointment as the state coordinator on homelessness, and the chair of the Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness, will end.” 

Kippen offered no explanation for why his appointment is ending. 

State and city officials are facing increasing pressure to find a solution for Kakaako’s expanding homeless encampment where state Rep. Tom Brower was attacked on June 29, amid a surge in increased assaults in the area. 

At the news conference, Ige said homeless people in Kakaako will not be moved until there is a place for them to go. He said there was no firm plan to relocate them yet. 

When pressed on whether he has set any deadlines for his new team, Ige said, “Stay tuned. We will be working together.”

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