Hawaii officials on Tuesday extended an emergency declaration aimed at easing the highest per-capita rate of homelessness in the nation.
Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui announced the third extension since Gov. David Ige declared a state of emergency in October.
“We not only have many households that are still living without a home, but we also have many that are just a paycheck away from falling into homelessness,” said Scott Morishige, the governor’s coordinator on homelessness.
Under the initial emergency proclamation and previous extensions, Ige released $6.3 million for homeless services statewide. Tuesday’s extension doesn’t include any additional funding, Morishige said.
The extension aims to help Maui’s effort to establish long-term housing in Wailuku to help at least 64 households with micro-units. It’s also designed to help the counties of Honolulu, Kauai and Hawaii repair and maintain shelters and build temporary and long-term housing.
“It helps those projects to come online more quickly, to better respond to the immediate need,” Morishige said.
The original emergency declaration in October came just days after the state cleared out one of the nation’s largest homeless encampments.
Many people moved to shelters and long-term housing as a result of outreach conducted during the sweep, but tents and structures have sprung back up in the areas that were cleared.
On the legislative front, Ige proposed more spending in his budget proposal on programs designed to help homeless families and individuals with rent subsidies and targeted services.
He wants to double to $3 million the amount of money the state spends on Housing First, which helps people get into housing regardless of their level of sobriety, and he called for $2 million for a new rapid rehousing program that helps subsidize up to three months of rent payments.
The budget also calls for money to hire three full-time staffers to help Morishige run homelessness programs throughout the state.
“It’s really critical to have the capacity to travel to the neighbor islands,” Morishige said. “We know that homelessness is a statewide issue. It’s not limited to Oahu.”
Ige’s budget proposal also calls for more money to clear homeless encampments on state lands and along highways, including funding for a new program to store property collected in the sweeps.
Hawaii saw a 23 percent increase in its unsheltered homeless population between 2014 and 2015, and a 46 percent increase in the number of unsheltered families, Morishige said. There were 7,260 homeless people in Hawaii at the latest count.
The proclamation is set to expire in April.