Lloyd Pendleton, known for his no-nonsense efficiency in addressing homelessness in Utah, is in talks with Mayor Kirk Caldwell about a move to Oahu to help reduce the highest per capita homeless rate in the country.
Pendleton and Caldwell met for the first time Friday when Pendleton outlined his ideas to get more people off the streets of Honolulu. Caldwell then told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “I love the guy. I wanted to keep him here with us or clone him. He lived up to all of the expectations I had. He gets it.”
Pendleton — who describes his age as “75 and a half” — has officially retired as Utah’s homeless coordinator. But he constantly welcomes visitors to Salt Lake City — when he’s not touring the country speaking about how it became the second city in America, behind Phoenix, to eliminate “chronic homeless veterans” and reduced overall chronic homelessness by 72 percent in 10 years.
Pendleton’s work as a homeless coordinator followed careers with Ford Motor Co. and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, where Pendleton was in charge of humanitarian relief for Europe and Africa.
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He talks about how social service agencies and Republican officials in Utah — “the reddest of red states,” as he calls it — were able to persuade conservative, business-oriented landlords to rent their units to homeless people who may have mental health issues or be addicted to alcohol or drugs through a program known as Housing First.
And he’s proud of how leaders from a wide-range of faith-based groups, not just the LDS, came together in Utah to help.
Pendleton told the Star-Advertiser that Caldwell “made that offer, so I’m gathering information. I’m interested. I’m talking to the big guy in the sky to see if he wants me to go to Hawaii to help out on homeless-ness. I’m not interested in going there to do a bunch of politics. I’m interested in making things happen and making the tough decisions.”
If it works out, Pendleton would arrive with his wife, Mary Beth, who “loves Hawaii,” he said.
Pendleton had nothing but praise for everyone he met on Oahu, from social service outreach workers to Caldwell, Gov. David Ige and Scott Morishige, state homeless coordinator.
Every community working to reduce homelessness needs what Pendleton calls a “champion” who can rally everyone else around a focused plan.
Without criticizing anyone else, Pendleton said he believes Caldwell’s energy and ideas make him the natural “champion” on Oahu.
“He’s a very action-oriented mayor,” Pendleton said. “I was impressed.”
The fledgling bro-mance seemed to be reciprocated.
“He’s the kind of guy we need here in Honolulu,” Caldwell said. “He’s lived it for over a decade and he can quickly analyze the problem in our state and in our county.”
Pendleton was in town at the invitation of LDS officials in Laie who want to be more involved in helping reduce homelessness in the islands, said Richard Long, the church’s area welfare manager out of Salt Lake City.
LDS officials in Hawaii, Long said, “see the problem. They see the issues. They feel compassion.”
Pendleton and Long wore dark business suits and ties for their separate meetings last week with Ige, Caldwell and state legislators. Pendleton, who was raised with conservative values on a Utah cattle ranch and dairy farm, also added his trademark lizard-skin cowboy boots.
For Hawaii, Pendleton said, “I see opportunities for the LDS to get more involved.”
But no one church, agency or person can end homelessness, he said.
During a tour of Kakaako’s Next Step shelter, Pendleton winced when he saw that only thin blankets separate homeless families from the concrete floors they sleep on.
Pendleton then kicked into high gear, pumping out ideas for the Next Step staff to consider to make the shelter’s operations more efficient and help the lives of the 280 people who can fit inside the refurbished warehouse.
Pendleton said the LDS has experience donating sealed mattresses that would keep out bedbugs, make them easier to clean and would make it more appealing to stay in a shelter.
When he was told that Next Step never turns away donations — no matter how bulky or impractical they are — Pendleton suggested that Next Step partner with Goodwill Industries of Hawaii and donate anything the shelter does not need. In turn, Pendleton said, Goodwill could issue vouchers that Next Step clients would redeem for more appropriate items, such as job-hunting clothes.
He then toured the shelter’s nearly empty food pantry and said there’s “high interest” from the LDS’ “Bishop’s Storehouse” to provide food to the needy.
“You get what you need, when you need it, instead of having to warehouse everything,” Pendleton told the Next Step staff.
He suggested that Boy Scouts looking for Eagle Scout projects would be a perfect match to collect much-needed toiletries, towels and sheets and turn them into kits that are given to newly arrived homeless clients.
“A fresh set of ideas is good,” said Lambert Lum, Next Step’s director of shelter services. “He’s given us lots of new ideas that expand on our existing practices. It’s awesome.”
Pendleton understands many of the barriers in the islands: “Land use, environmental issues, NIMBY-ism,” he said. “They’re very tough challenges. Everybody wants to help with the homeless, but they want it done somewhere else. If you get caught up with the barriers, it’s not going to get done.”
Caldwell plans to find money in his administration’s budget to hire Pendleton in some sort of capacity “to help coordinate with the state, with the private sector and with faith-based organizations. I told him we have a lot we can do with him working with us. We remain hopeful.”
Across Punchbowl Street at the state Capitol, Morishige said Pendleton’s meeting with Ige and Rachael Wong, director of the state Department of Human Services, involved a discussion of efforts underway.
“A lot of the practices they implemented in Utah are some of the things we’re implementing here,” Morishige said. “As we design Housing First we’ve built in damage guarantees and other incentives for landlords. It was good to hear that many of the elements we’ve built into Housing First are similar to what Lloyd built into Utah’s program. He also spoke about really engaging the community, the faith-based community, in particular. How do we really get the community more involved in this issue? It’s a significant accomplishment that Lloyd’s done in Utah. State government can’t do it alone. We do need to form partnerships.”
Morishige said he plans to “keep an open conversation with Lloyd and share with him our continuing progress.”
Jun Yang, executive director for the city Office of Housing, also plans to stay in touch with Pendleton.
Yang sat in on the nearly 90-minute meeting between Caldwell and Pendleton and said, “the mayor’s been hearing his name for the past number of years and he’s been wanting to have a chance to meet with him. We really do hope we have more opportunities to work together and learn from his experiences in Utah and nationally.”
Yang then added, “As an aside, he’s just a really cool guy.”