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Taking the team approach on homelessness

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Gov. David Ige
Announcing the formation of the leadership team Monday. Ige was flanked by Mayor Kirk Caldwell, left, and state Sen. Jill Tokuda

City and state officials do not plan a huge sweep of Kakaako’s expanding homeless encampment and instead will slowly find alternate housing for a few occupants living on the outer edges, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said Monday at an unusual joint news conference with Gov. David Ige.

They also announced the formation of a Governor’s Leadership Team on Homelessness.

Caldwell and Ige agreed that no one place can currently accommodate all of the hundreds of people living in wood-reinforced tents and tarps that wind around the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center, University of Hawaii medical school and Kakaako Waterfront Park.

So government officials, working with social service agencies, will first find alternate housing for a few people living on the outskirts of the encampment, then work their way into the population hub around Ohe and Olomehani streets — the same location where state Rep. Tom Brower was attacked by a mob June 29 as he took photos.

Caldwell offered no specific timetable, but said, “We want to take action sooner rather than later.”


The Governor’s Leadership Team on Homelessness will include:

>> Gov. David Ige.
>> Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
>> State Sen. Jill Tokuda.
>> State Rep. Sylvia Luke.
>> State Director of Human Services Rachael Wong.
>> City Council Chairman Ernie Martin.
>> Representatives of U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono.

Although Ige announced the formation of the team to find both short- and long-term solutions, the state’s current homelessness czar won’t be involved.

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

Kippen’s email announcement came just before Ige’s news conference announcing the formation of his “unprecedented” team on homelessness made up of county and state officials and representatives from the offices of U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz.

The Governor’s Leadership Team on Homelessness will meet weekly and come up with “best practices” to deal with homeless encampments such as Kakaako, Ige said.

He expects action long before the start of the next legislative session. In the meantime, Ige said, ongoing efforts to deal with the homeless will continue — such as the state Department of Transportation’s semiannual cleanup of encampments that will begin in August.

The group will consult with law enforcement leaders, nonprofit organizations and other interested parties to assist with implementing short-term objectives, Ige’s office said.

“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.

Ige offered no explanation for Kippen’s departure as the state’s homeless coordinator, but said his administration is interviewing candidates to replace Kippen.

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 did not say why he is leaving.

State and city officials are facing increasing pressure to find a solution for Kakaako’s expanding homeless encampment amid a surge in increased assaults in the area.

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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