Key lawmakers agree to give $12M in open funding to tackle homelessness
  • Wednesday, May 22, 2019
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Hawaii News

Key lawmakers agree to give $12M in open funding to tackle homelessness

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    “Pop” was sitting next to a fence near Keehi Lagoon on April 15.

Key lawmakers agreed Monday to give Gov. David Ige’s homeless team full discretion on how they want to spend $12 million to address Hawaii’s growing homeless problem.

Ige had requested about $9 million in funding for the 2017 fiscal year budget for a variety of homeless programs. But on Monday the chairwomen of the House and Senate money committees replaced his itemized request with $12 million in general funding to address homelessness.

They said it would be up to Scott Morishige, Ige’s homeless coordinator, working with the Department of Human Services, to determine how the funding should be used and to report back to the Legislature.

By giving Morishige greater discretion, lawmakers said that they hoped the funding could be used more efficiently.

It is highly unusual for lawmakers to give a governor more than he requested in the budget.

“There are a lot of different types of services provided by the state which are also provided by the counties, which are also provided by the nonprofits,” said Rep. Sylvia Luke (D, Punchbowl-Pauoa-Nuuanu), chairwoman of the House Finance Committee during a conference committee meeting on House Bill 1700, the state budget bill, in explaining the decision. “As opposed to compartmentalizing and putting certain services in silos, we felt that it would be better use if we put the onus on Mr. Morishige here, working with DHS, to see what are some of the benchmarks.”

Sen. Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said that the appropriation showed that the issue of homelessness is a “top priority for the House and Senate.”

“This is an opportunity for us in working together: How can we leverage resources to most effectively reach out to this very vulnerable population?” said Tokuda.

The overall budget bill is still being debated in conference committee and will go to the full House and Senate for a final vote by May 5.

Also on Monday, House and Senate members agreed to a version of SB 2559, which would increase state oversight of Hawaii’s homeless shelters. The bill, which also faces a final vote by the full House and Senate, would require shelters to comply with basic standards, such as having adequate bathroom facilities, storage for personal belongings and partitioned sleeping spaces.

The bill, introduced by Tokuda (D, Kailua- Kaneohe), would tie state funding for homeless shelters to performance measures. Nearly 600 shelter beds remain empty on any given night, according to state statistics, raising concerns among lawmakers that shelters aren’t doing a good job filling beds.

There are an estimated 7,620 homeless individuals statewide, about half of whom are living on the streets, according to the 2015 Point in Time Count, an annual homeless survey. Hawaii now has the highest rate of homeless per capita nationwide, according to federal statistics.

Ige’s initial budget request had included $3 million in funding for Housing First, a state program that provides housing and supportive services to homeless with mental health or substance abuse problems. He also included $2 million for a rapid rehousing program aimed at moving families out of shelters; $2 million for homeless outreach services; and funding for public housing renovations, a new shelter in Kakaako and a program for storing the confiscated belongings of homeless people.

Morishige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser after the hearing that his office will work with the community and those that provide homeless services to best determine how to use the funding.

“We are thankful for the generous appropriation from the Legislature,” he said. “As we look at how best to direct these funds to the community, we know that there are certain investments that are effective and have proven to work well in other communities, including Housing First, rapid rehousing and really investing in outreach serv­ices in the community.”

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    • EXACTLY! It’s GOOD NEWS–on the surface-however, if the monies are just going to continue to flow to the same old “CONSULTANTS” and the same old “COMMITTEES” and spent for the same old “STUDIES”; then WE ARE NOWHREE. WHAT IS THE PLAN, WHEN CAN THE PLAN BE IMPLEMENTED, AND WHO IS IN CHARGE?(!) Morishige is just a thwarted-puppet. And, the alleged glad-handing political-puppet from Utah (what’s his face?) doesn’t impress me. THE HOMELESS need–TODAY–a sanitary and safe alternative place to live, so they can be HUMANELY relocated. With less than 1/3 of the allocated $12M–I could accomplish this in less than one-month. We have enough competent Developers and Contractors in this town to make this happen, FORTHWITH. “JUST DO IT!” “Keiki O Ka’ Āina (KOKA)”, on the Kalihi Street campus, was built in TEN (10) DAYS. If the CITY/COUNTY would allocate the Land and and waive the unnecessary permit processes–it would be a cake-walk. IMUA!

    • Exactly, they gave the homeless czar more money than requested and there is no plan? What the heck? If that’s the case I rather have the legislature give the UH athletics department the 3 million. At least the state benefits from that money. Last I hear, Morishige just wanted to dole out money to help the homeless pay rent, and that’s while we have a surplus of empty beds in our shelters.

    • “Or are they just taking our (taxpayer’s) money and throwing it at the problem, hoping for the best” — the first half of that sentence is correct, not the second half. They ARE just taking our tax dollars, but they don’t care about fixing the problem and they aren’t hoping to fix it. The tax dollars will go to line the pockets of developers, unions, non-profits, and others with ties to politicians. If they fixed the problem, the excuse to reallocate tax dollars to political cronies would stop, so don’t kid yourself that any politician wants to fix the problem. Hawaii’s voters are suckers.

    • Wasted use of money from hard earned taxpayers! The outcome will always look gloomy. Pau, nuff already, let ’em live the way they want to, and where they want to. It’s time to put he reins on Sylvia Luke (D) who lives in Dowsett Highlands in Nuuanu (and what should she care about – she no can see ’em anyway). and replace her at the square building on Beretania!

  • In all her years serving the people of Maui as chair of the Senate’s consumer protection committee, Roz Baker has NEVER exerted any oversight over health plan network adequacy (i.e. access to care) even though she is responsibility for the Hawaii DCCA Insurance Division.

    This failure to pressure health plans to follow their lawful obligation to maintain adequate provider networks so that all necessary services are available to plan members without delay has caused many people to go without care. There are many reports of suffering and even deaths as a result. As one doctor recently pleaded, “We should be working together so people don’t have to suffer, experience further disability, get incarcerated, or even die.” This lack of access to care has undoubtedly contributed to the homeless crisis.

    In 2015, Hawaii’s managed care plans had over $6,000,000,000.00 in annual revenue to implement sustainable access solutions. In 2013, just two of our MedQuest plans were paid over one $billion by the state to care Medicaid beneficiaries. These plans are operated by huge mainland for-profit corporations: Ohana (Wellcare) of Florida and UnitedHealth Care from Minnesota.

    After paying claims, these two MedQuest plans sent nearly $200,000,000.00 out of the state to shareholders. Just two of our MedQuest plans! Over the years, these two plans have had over a $billion in retained revenue available to fix the access crisis, but with no oversight from Senator Baker, the insurance commissioner or the director of DHS, nothing has been done.

    In fact, Bakers primary concern regarding access to care in recent legislative sessions has been access to Medical Marijuana. Not only has she championed several bills, she also held special hearings and vigorously challenges how the Department of health was enforcing the law. Baker clearly knows about her oversight powers:

    “I get very frustrated when executive departments establish rules that go beyond what the Legislature opined,” Sen. Roz Baker (D, West Maui-South Maui) told health officials who testified in front of a joint hearing of the House Health Committee and Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee. “The Legislature makes policy and the executive branch implements that policy. So I would like you … to look at those rules and in areas where they go beyond what the statute says specifically, take them down. They don’t belong there.” (Star-Advertiser)

    So why then, has Baker chosen NEVER ask why neither the Insurance Commissioner or the Director of DHS have followed the laws requiring them to ensure that health plans maintain adequate provider networks?

    This session, Baker refused to even hear a bill (sb2287) that would have informed health plan members of their legal right to an adequate provider network, and that would have required health plans to maintain accurate directories of participating providers. This bill was based on the NAIC Model Law. Senator Chun-Oakland introduced this bill, it was presented to Senator Bakers’ head clerk and discussed in detail on two occasions, and they were provided two hundred pages of supporting documents. Mid session Baker’s clerk said the bill would not get a hearing. When asked about this on March 3, 2016, Baker replied, “At this stage in the session we’re constrained by what has already been introduced and topics discussed.” She was reminded that the bill had been discussed with her staff, presented on time and was sitting before her committee, and asked if she would hear it, she did not respond.

    There has been no response from Baker since then, while many people struggling with homelessness and illness or on the edge of being so, are forced to wait.

    I applaud Senator Tokuda for investing more money into needed supports and services for those in need, but better stewardship and oversight of the $billions the State already spends on privatized health care service contracts is also called for.

    Senator Tokuda, please talk to Roz Baker and insist that our fundamental laws about health plan network adequacy begin to be enforced. This is not only humane and fiscally sound, it’s just plain common-sense.

    • “There has been no response from Baker since then, while many people struggling with homelessness and illness or on the edge of being so, are forced to wait.”

      Sen Roz is balking because her intentions are universal long-term care for senior citizens. 365 days of long-term care services @ ~$70/day. That equates to $25550/yr and it’s going to be funded by increasing the GET 0.5% and get us tax-payers to pay for it. There’s a stipulation, ‘coverage will accrue for residents who file Hawaii income tax returns for at least 10 years.’

      Our senior population who have paid their fair share of taxes over 10+> year span, contributing to the system, that need long-term care services get’s tended to first.

      • Yobo, enforcement of network adequacy laws is not about the state spending more, it’s about ensuring the lawfully delivery of services taxpayets already paid billions for!

        Do you enjoy paying for services thst are never delivered?

  • WHO EVER MONEY IT IS WILL IT EVER SOLVE ANY PROBLEM WITH HOMELESS .. IS SPENDING $12M. AND HAVING AND KEEPING
    HOUSED A YEARLY THING ! WILL THE MONEY KEEP COMING TO SUPPORT THIS CONCERN OR IT WOULD HAVE BEEN CHEAPER TO
    SEND THEM BACK HOME TO THE MAINLAND !! THIS IS NOT A RESORT FOR THE HOMELESS WHERE TAXPAYERS MONEY COMES OUT
    FROM NOWHERE TO PAY FOR THIS LENGTHLY CAUSE !!

  • This is government at its worse–sounds very similar to da rail–“we (government) do NOT know how much is going to cost or how it will be funded in the long run but we are sure it is a good idea”–nuts–who ever heard of giving more than is requested and also taking away any accountability of what the monies will be spent on.

    Crazy—Get rid of the status quo in state and county government–these politicians are taking more of our hard earned dollars and spending it irresponsibly–

    How convenient: No accountability for what these monies are spent on >>> so how can we say if the use of these monies were good or not / if it achieved any useful end or not.

    • There’s $200million to build a new air conditioned high school on Maui in Roz Baker’s Kihei district, where the number of students is dropping. Most of that money is from us here on Oahu. We need new leadership in the State Senate.

        • Yeah Roz Baker received the 2nd highest total donations from A&B as reported over the weekend.

          Roz clearly takes care of Big Business interests, not the little guy. Her values are more in line with the Republican Party. Maybe this is because she is from Texas.

        • Roz also doesn’t want to take a ‘meat cleaver’ approach to illegal ivory dispensers on Maui. Hawaii being the 3rd largest market for illegal ivory.

  • More monies for the homeless. When will this stop? Next year the state is going to ask for more money and the gravy train just goes on and on. In the meantime some of the homeless are sleeping under the tree waiting for their meal. Like I said all along, I’m not against people having a hard time, but the others are just playing the game to have the city and state take care of them.

  • Too much taxpayer’s money going to homelessness. Try figa…stop already, just let them fend for their own and let them live where they like live, no spend more kala with little impressional results. Nothing going change – we keep catering to their needs, charity and church groups keep giving food, why should should they expect anything better. Tired already. If they like help, let them get off their butts and do something about it. It is up to them, not up to us to keep taking care of them.

    • Here would be an interesting total…Add up ALL the funding this State does for ALL the “programs” for the homeless – ADD the tax revenue lost from the SLEW OF non-profits who “service” the homeless for their tax breaks. Probably would add up to being able BUY the homeless a free and clear home…in Vegas. Govt should have to answer, like charities do, for the EXACT percentage of what actually makes it to the homeless individual and NOT eaten up in salaries and “administrative costs”. Oh, and don’t forget about the inevitable “studies”/luncheons on how to best spend this 12 million.

  • To: The people of China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Mexico, Egypt, and elsewhere
    From: Hawaii Governor David Ige, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, and the Hawaii Democratic Party
    The taxpayers of Hawaii promise to anyone who can afford a one-way ticket to Honolulu International Airport the following: …
    1. A secure place to sleep
    2. A nutritious diet
    3. Unlimited medical care
    4. Schools for your kids.
    Vote (D)
    Thank you

    • Sorry…Hawaii’s too third world for those people. Plus, most people in those countries can’t even get a passport or the money to pay a smuggler, anyway.

    • What about 3 billion being spent each year on Healthcare for the poor, and $200million is retained by just two MedQuest plans? That’s a lot more than just $12million. We need competent leadership in our state senate.

    • boshio–you’re right. I like Trump’s thoughts: Give a man a fish and he has a meal, deport him and he can find his own fish!!! The more we cater and feed the homeless the more we’ll get!!!

    • And don’t feed the jackals either, like Senate President Ron Kouchi’s (Kauai) business partner and greedy speculator Jeff Stone either. They just get hungrier for more flesh. We can’t afford corporate welfare.

  • What a joke! more money to the homeless. We see them everyday, all day in Kakaako. Some live better than the real population.. They go to chinatown and use that EBT card to buy anything they want and use their “cash money” from side jobs to buy drugs, booze, pain killers to get high. Let’s talk about the $28,000 IHS spent to send a hundred or so homeless home to their families AFTER CONTACTING FAMILIES AND ASSURING THESE HOMELESS WERE GOING HOME!

  • This state is doomed.

    Two biggest issues that’ll take over to the point of losing focus on every other issue: Out of control, boondoggle, white elephant money pit rail and coddling homeless vagrants, be they with mental health issues or are just freeloading bums from all over the US.

    Meanwhile: (1) lowlife developers continue to grease politicians to get rights to build luxury investment/money laundering apartments in ever growing numbers that are unattainable to average Hawaii locals, (2) school standards both academically and facilities-wise, spiral downward ensuring another solid generation of hotel housekeepers, uneducated police, European luxury boutique clerks and stevedores (3) Brain drain will continue with best & brightest seeing real futures in other states and even other countries while Hawaii wallows in inertia and backwards motion all while people TALK about it becoming a “hub” for tech startups and innovation. Just talk, though. (4) One party chokehold on politics locally ensures inaction and continual 70s mentality on every problem.

  • I cannot help thinking that we are being played the fool by homeless. I cannot help thinking that they have an easier and better life than me working 9-5 and struggling with a mortgage and other bills. They don’t even pay for the water they use. Is there a way to make their extended families pay for their services?

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. This is a slap in the face to all the people who do work hard to make ends meet and put food on the table for their families. This sounds to me like taking $12 mil and dumping it down the toilet.

  • They have no plan or any idea as to what to do. Legislature is just hoping and coping. The homeless people need individual supervision and more direct intervention.
    They need to be removed from the parks, streets and beaches and sent to a more controlled environment.

  • What happen to our drag strip? Land grab by politicians and private developers. Went awry. Let’s make a Motorsport Facility/Homeless Shelter. 12 Million should cover it.

  • Throwing hard earned tax money at a bottomless pit. How much does one of those Ala Moana area condos cost to build? Put a homeless fund tariff on all new developments. See how many people really want to put their money where their mouths are.

  • Yet another fine example of State government and inept politicians running amok! They don’t even try to hide their lack of leadership and problem solving abilities anymore. SNAFU to the max!

  • Here’s a few ways to reduce the homeless population:

    1) Child Protective Services should remove children from “lifestyle choice” homeless parents. Monies can be used to fund foster care and drug rehab for those that want their kids back.

    2) HPD should arrest junkie homeless for possession, public intoxication, trespass and/or fine them for littering and loitering. Make it inconvenient to dissuade more mainland homeless from flying here. If homeless want the “harassment” to stop, they can go to the shelter.

    3) Instead of having hundreds of non-profits and churches individually catering to the homeless, direct the majority of the funding to shelters. If these groups want to use private funding to enable these individuals, it’s fine. Public funds should go to IHS instead of smaller non-profits like the downtown River of Life that indiscriminately feed and provide services to mainland homeless transplants.

    4) Restrict use/access to public buildings if attire and hygiene requirements are not met. The library is not an air conditioned rest stop. There should be no sleeping on tables or chairs. The bathroom is not meant to be a public shower. For those that frequent the downtown library, you know what I mean.

    5) Spend the $12 million on local homeless, especially those on the westside. Otherwise word will get out and more mainland homeless will continue to fly in.

    6) Make it illegal to panhandle on the streets near stoplights. This will mitigate the homeless, charitable and sports team begging alike. It’s not only dangerous for the “beggars” but also a distraction for the drivers. Do something to earn the money, please don’t teach your kids to rely on public charity to achieve a goal.

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