Gov. David Ige and acting Gov. Shan Tsutsui have signed eight emergency proclamations since taking office in 2014, including four that waive procurement and other normal procedures to more quickly address the highest per capita homeless rate in the nation.
The four homeless-related emergency proclamations, beginning with the first one Ige signed on Oct. 16, are designed to expedite projects and to spread $4.6 million across the state to get homeless people back into housing — or to prevent others from adding to Hawaii’s rate of 465 homeless individuals per 100,000 people.
Gov. David Ige and acting Gov. Shan Tsutsui have signed eight 60-day emergency proclamations:
» March 2: Puna lava flow
» Aug. 20: Tropical Depression C3, which became Hurricane Kilo
» Aug. 28: Disaster relief for Hurricane Ignacio
» Oct. 16: First of four emergency homeless proclamations
» Oct 26: Supplementary homeless proclamation
» Dec. 24: Second supplementary homeless proclamation
» Feb. 12: Mosquito-borne illnesses
» Tuesday: Third supplementary homeless proclamation (signed by Tsutsui)
Source: Offices of Gov. David Ige and Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui
HOMELESS PROJECTS HELPED BY EMERGENCY PROCLAMATIONS
» Up to $312,500 in increased funding for Oahu, and up to $250,000 for neighbor islands for Housing First programs to house chronically homeless people who may have alcohol, drug and mental health issues.
» Up to $292,900 for Oahu and up to $207,100 for neighbor islands to provide first month’s rent or security deposit for homeless families with minor children.
» $750,000 released to renovate a Kakaako maintenance shed to be used as the new Kakaako Family Assessment Center to provide temporary shelter for homeless families with young children; it serves up to 60 people at a time.
» $5 million contract with Aloha United Way to distribute $4.6 million in rental and utility assistance; AUW also will provide a centralized 211 phone system to better direct the homeless — or those at risk of becoming homeless — to appropriate agencies. In addition, AUW will commission a study to look at three homeless populations: youth under age 18; released prisoners; and those contending with severe physical and mental health issues.
The proclamations also:
» Increase the number of beds at Kauai County’s only full-service emergency shelter from 19 to 39.
» Establish Puuhonua (Sanctuaries), or temporary housing in Kahului, Wailuku and Lahaina on Maui and allow 64 modular units per site close to existing emergency or transitional homeless shelters to serve an estimated 190 people.
» Establish a “micro-unit” housing project in West Hawaii for up to 32 chronically homeless individuals, along with providing counseling and other social services.
» Establish up to six long-term, temporary or permanent housing projects on Oahu.
Source: Office of Gov. David Ige
“By suspending procurement and helping to cut down on some of the red tape, it helps these projects come online quickly,” said Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator. “We’re being very intentional in making sure it’s not a broad use of powers that can be applied under the cover of addressing homelessness.”
Even so, the strategy is prompting questions. Colin Moore, director of the University of Hawaii’s Public Policy Center, asks: “When does the emergency become permanent? When do you go back to the state of normal governing? With homelessness, it is not a natural disaster that has a clear beginning and end. An emergency proclamation can suspend procurement rules and parts of collective bargaining and force state agencies to do things they’re not normally involved with. There’s a point where the continuance of the emergency proclamation is no longer appropriate and we’re nearing that time.”
The other four emergency proclamations signed by Ige and Tsutsui address Mother Nature, beginning with a March 2 proclamation that followed former Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s original emergency proclamation, issued Sept. 5, 2014, to expedite disaster relief to those affected by the Puna lava flow on Hawaii island.
Then, on Aug. 20, Ige signed his second emergency proclamation while anticipating problems from Tropical Depression C3, which became Hurricane Kilo. He followed it up eight days later with another emergency proclamation aimed at providing disaster relief for Hurricane Ignacio.
After signing his initial homelessness emergency proclamation on Oct. 16, Ige followed up with a supplemental homeless proclamation on Oct. 26 and a second supplemental proclamation on Dec. 24 that each extended the last proclamation another 60 days.
Then, on Feb. 12, Ige signed an emergency proclamation aimed at combating dengue fever and the potential threat from the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
Tsutsui, serving as acting governor this week while Ige is out of state, announced Tuesday that he had signed a third supplemental homeless proclamation that lasts until April 23.
Moore said, “Dengue makes more sense because it’s a clear public health crisis.”
He added, “Time really is of the essence and you need to marshal state resources and move people around. I get nervous when these emergency proclamations are used to address public policy questions like homelessness when there’s no natural disaster.”
But Morishige said projects to address the homeless population on Kauai, Maui, Hawaii island and Oahu could take years to complete without an emergency proclamation clearing the way.
“Hawaii’s facing a real serious issue, particularly when the number of unsheltered families and individuals increases from year to year,” Morishige said. “That warrants an emergency response. The emergency proclamation is a way to respond to those increases.”
The emergency proclamations helped county officials in West Hawaii award a contract last week to build a “micro-unit” project to house chronically homeless individuals, Morishige said.
Without the proclamation, it could have taken years to solicit and review construction bids and get the micro-units built; instead, the project is scheduled to be up and running by Oct. 31, Morishige said.
A good example of how the emergency proclamation process works is the new contract executed last week between the state and Aloha United Way, Morishige said.
AUW, like United Way operations around the country, already administers Federal Emergency Management Agency money to help with one-time rental and utilities assistance and to fund community food banks.
The emergency proclamation allowed the state Department of Human Services to reach out to AUW directly to distribute $4.6 million in rent and utility assistance — bypassing the solicitation of bids and the wait period for responses from potential bidders.
Over the next 12 months, AUW is expected to help 1,390 households across the islands.
AUW was also tasked by the state to build on its existing 211 phone system to better direct callers to specific homeless or housing services to get more people off the streets.
“We want to make sure we’re bringing on as many resources as we can to address the increase in the homeless population,” Morishige said. “The AUW contract allows us to quickly reach local families across the state that are currently homeless or at immediate risk of falling into homelessness.”
Kaui housing officials aren’t looking at multimillion-dollar homeless projects.
They just wanted to double the number of beds inside the island’s only full-service emergency homeless shelter without having to do any renovations or construction.
The Kauai County Planning Commission originally restricted Lihue’s Mana‘olana homeless shelter to 19 beds per night on the site of the old Lihue Elementary School.
Ige’s emergency proclamation allowed the county to waive the limit and sign a contract Friday with the existing operator, the Kauai Economic Opportunity, to run a larger shelter rather than go through the normal bid process, said Gary Mackler, Kauai’s acting housing director.
“The proclamation serves us by removing the requirements of an existing use permit that limits the number of beds to 19,” Mackler said. “Now we can add 20 beds for overnight use and expand to 39 beds.”
The new beds, along with extra lockers, are expected to be installed by the end of March, Mackler said.
“Many nights the facility is full and people would have to be turned away,” he said. “Hopefully that will now occur fewer times. We really appreciate the ability to move more quickly than we might otherwise.”