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Ige extends state’s homeless emergency status into 2016

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    Ige declared a state of emergency over the homelessness crisis in October.

Gov. David Ige on Thursday extended an emergency proclamation to deal with Hawaii’s homelessness crisis.

The extension gives the state and counties more flexibility to complete shelters, micro-housing and other projects to address homelessness.

Ige declared a state of emergency over the homelessness crisis in October, but it was set to expire the day after Christmas. It now continues through Feb. 26.

Hawaii has the largest rate of homeless people per capita of any U.S. state, with 7,260 homeless people in Hawaii at the latest count.

“We know that we have many individuals and families in Hawaii that are homeless, not only during the holiday season, but year round,” said Scott Morishige, the governor’s coordinator on homelessness. “We’re committed to being able to respond to that need.”

The October emergency proclamation identified $1.3 million in state funds for projects tackling homelessness.

It also gave the state flexibility with contracts and zoning rules so officials could act quickly to address the crisis.

The extension gave that freedom to the counties and identified county projects that could operate under the flexible rules.

On Maui, which saw a 23 percent increase in its unsheltered homeless population in the past year, the proclamation will help the county build “sanctuaries” with modular housing units in Kahului, Wailuku and Lahaina. The sanctuaries are expected to serve about 190 people, according to the governor.

The declaration also will help Hawaii island with a micro-unit housing project that could help up to 32 chronically homeless people in West Hawaii. The number of unsheltered homeless people on the Big Island grew 55 percent in the last year.

On Kauai, where the governor says there are more than 300 homeless people but just one homeless shelter, the proclamation will help create a new temporary shelter that could serve up to 20 people per day.

The proclamation also will help the City and County of Honolulu with up to six long-term housing projects designed for homeless people.

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