Lawmaker pushes Ige for results on homelessness
  • Saturday, June 15, 2019
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Hawaii News

Lawmaker pushes Ige for results on homelessness

Flush with an extra $3 million it never requested to address island homelessness, Gov. David Ige’s administration is being pressured to better coordinate the state’s homeless efforts as impatient legislators await progress.

The Legislature’s $12 million allocation came in response to Ige’s request for $9 million. The additional funding represents “both a blessing and a burden,” said state Sen. Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “They recognize the gravity of the responsibility that’s put on them to make sure those resources are spent wisely. All eyes are on them.”

Tokuda said she plans to “be a pain” in tracking the administration’s progress before the start of the next legislative session.

“I’m the one that won’t go away, whether they like it or not,” she said.

Along with the extra state funding, Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator, said several developments are coming together that collectively carry the potential to change the way the state tackles the largest per capita homeless rate in the country:

>> The state’s contracts with 32 organizations that provide services such as homeless shelters and social service outreach all expire in December or January, and the state Department of Human Services is seeking new requests for proposals. The contracts are currently worth a total of $23.1 million — $20.9 million from the state and $2.2 from the federal government.

>> In April the state began participating in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program, which is designed to help states leverage Medicaid to better cover gaps in housing and homeless initiatives.

In a statement that accompanied the announcement, state Health Director Virginia Pressler said, “Participation in the Innovation Accelerator Program will give our teams a much-needed boost in support and training to find new ways to address the social determinants that lead to homelessness and affect health here in Hawaii. Hawaii’s cross-agency collaboration on the homeless issue is key to sustaining long-term solutions.”

>> Morishige is meeting with state departments about how much of the $12 million appropriation they’ll need to deal with homelessness before the start of the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

“Homelessness really cuts across a variety of different state departments and agencies,” Morishige said.

For instance, the state Department of Transportation had been spending between $250,000 and $300,000 each time for twice-yearly sweeps of homeless encampments on DOT property. Morishige declined to comment on whether the sweeps have been halted. DOT referred questions back to Morishige.

Morishige said that from now on Ige’s administration wants homeless efforts to focus around three main areas: affordable housing; health and human services; and public safety.

“We need to look at the big picture and see how all the pieces fit together,” Morishige said. “The state recognizes that with the complexity of homelessness we really need to take a comprehensive approach, moving on all three areas simultaneously.”

Ige’s administration particularly wants to build on the early success of the nascent efforts by the city and state to house homeless people in so-called Housing First rental units.

The Housing First philosophy is that it’s more effective and cost-efficient to move homeless people from the street into fair-market rental units, where they can then receive social service help for problems that could include mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse. Traditional housing models often require residents to be clean and sober before becoming eligible for housing.

The state has found Housing First units for more than 100 people, Morishige said, while the city housed 176 people in 115 units in its first year.

“If you invest in Housing First, it’s been shown in other communities to result in significant savings to the health care system,” Morishige said. “How can we build upon the early success we’re seeing in the state and the city’s Housing First programs? This is a real opportunity for us to really reorient our system of services in this Housing First direction.”

The budget bill that gave Ige’s administration an extra $3 million requires the state Department of Human Services to submit a report by Nov. 1 detailing how the $12 million will be spent and ways of measuring progress.

Morishige said the November deadline is important to “make sure we’re looking at the issue from every angle.”

“We’re at a good place of opportunity,” he said. “The timing is lining up.”

Legislators were willing to fund an additional $3 million to make a dent in the state’s homeless population, said Tokuda, the state senator.

“This is a serious issue for our community,” she said. “Providing more than what was requested was something people wanted to embrace. That was not a hard sell.”

So far, Tokuda likes the early efforts by Ige’s administration.

“What Scott (and) folks have done is a good start,” she said. “It needs to be aggressively pushed forward. We’re going to keep them on their toes. And that’s a good thing.”

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  • More of the same bs coming from Ige’s administration. Vandalism, gangs, feral cats, feces on the ground in Kakaako Makai Gateway Park is not enough to do something right now? When will this situation be dealt with?

    • Throwing money at the homeless is useless. Only forced coercion would help, but is unconstitutional. Unfortunately our forefathers did not foresee the rise of the shameless nuisance population.

      • The politicians COULD (but refuse to) lobby to repeal COFA. They COULD (but refuse to) refuse to give COFA immigrants free health care (the federal courts said we don’t have to). They COULD (but refuse to) impose a waiting period so that mainland transplants do not get free welfare the minute they step off the airplane. They COULD (but refuse to) create programs that have the goal of reunifying mainland transplants with their families back home and/or relocate the transplants to places on the mainland with a lower cost of living. They are many things the politicians COULD be doing, but they aren’t — and the ONLY reason they aren’t is because the homeless are a BIG BUSINESS and a perfect way for the politicians to transfer tax dollars into the private pockets of political supports (like unions, developers, so-called “non-profits,” churches, and other private interests). It’s always all about how a politician can (legally) transfer tax money to their friends – it’s not about “homelessness” per se.

  • If any legislator wishes to be involved in the homeless issues on a day to day basis, then he/she should resign from their legislative office and ask to be hired to run the programs. Too much legislative interference can create unintended consequences and strap administrators from being creative. Being “in-your-face” is a serious distraction and drains the energy of program administrators otherwise needed in seeking innovative solutions to a nearly intractable problem.

  • “Ige’s administration wants homeless efforts to focus around three main areas: affordable housing; health and human services; and public safety.”

    Bassackwards, but what do you expect from the dems? Public Safety should always be his first concern, then health, then housing. As it is, some of these people are a threat to the safety of his constituents, but he doesn’t care that they are running loose on the streets. Some of them are health hazards stemming from mental problems and sadly some are breeding grounds for disease, because they can’t take care of themselves due to those mental problems.

    Ige and the dems with their foolish, reward lawlessness, Housing First concept are spitting in the face of law-abiding, gainfully employed citizens who are also having a hard time finding housing. Why follow laws and work if the government is going to find me an apartment at a low price and totally disregard my drug taking (and the crimes I’m going to commit to purchase those drugs) and the danger I may pose to my neighbors? All I have to do is refuse to go to a shelter, “cause there’s too many rules” and the guv will find me my own apartment. What a deal.

    As for you who follow the rules and work hard, keep voting “D”….suckers.

    • Geez, first of all, it was a list, not an order of precedence. I didn’t read where public safety was the lowest priority, did you?

      Secondly, there are already a lot of resources going to public safety – there’s a whole department dedicated to it.

      Third, as stated in the article, it’s more effective and cost efficient to move these people into housing – you’d rather spend more money for fewer results? Take a Democrat-loathing blinders off!

  • They need to spend the money on law enforcement, not shelters. The more you give the more they abuse the law abiding citizens our Government is charged to protect and serve.
    You don’t put gas on a fire. You extinguish it. What is Ige and Caldwell thinking?

  • A good segment of our homeless population are Pacific islanders; Micronesia, Chuk, etc. These people are ill equipped to compete in a competitive society. They’re here for a “better life” which basically living off of charities like welfare. They cannot afford housing because they don’t have the skill set to get better paying jobs. Giving them a one way ticket back to where they came from would be a good start. Then let’s work on the locals who are lazy. Don’t give them their welfare checks unless they work for it. There’s lot of work to be done with bulky trash, grass/bushes/trees that needs to be cleared, etc. No free ticket in this life.

    • Which is ironic, in your first two sentences, because these SAME people had to sign and agreement that, if allowed to come here, that they would NOT be a burden to society. Agreement not upheld. Why are we not enforcing the conditions of that agreement? It was put there for a reason and not to just be ignored.

      • Because any compassionate human would try to help a culture and people who we dropped 76 nuclear bombs on! Get a grip you people – on your stingy hearts.

  • Senior and other worthwhile programs are being cut so more money can be spent on the homeless. The homeless will not change no matter what. The reason is WORK and RULES. Enough said.

    • Yeah, people who were productive citizens their whole lives and now need a little help when they are too physically frail to help themselves, end up getting the shaft from the State, while younger people who CHOOSE to freeload get free medical, housing, insurance, food, interpreters, etc. The politicians in Hawaii have shown their utter contempt for the working class.

  • Many of the homeless are not suitable for “affordable housing”. Many of them don’t want to go into the available shelters. Those people need to be sentenced to incarceration – not in existing prisons but in fenced areas with security and the necessary water and toilets. Only allow the churches and charities to bring their food and clothing to these areas and NOT to any street or park areas. These homeless like to live under the stars in tents so give it to them. Once they finish their sentence, if they go back to live homeless in public areas, put them back in these “camps”.

    The government must do what is best for the majority and stop these homeless bums from taking over public areas and ruining this state.

    • Plain and simple, most Micro’s don’t have the job skills to survive in this economy, its a generational thing and will take years for them to transition into a western lifestyle where education, and certain work skills are acquired. Other homeless(druggies and mentally unstable) don’t want to follow “rules” to live in shelters so trying to change them is futile and a waste of money. There is no quick fix or perfect solution, required resources to “fix” the homeless crisis will increase exponentially as the problem will increase with more migrants from Micronesia and the mainland come here to enjoy the weather, freebies from state and local governments, no end in sight. When the next recession hits the problem will only get worse and the impacts severe.

      • The reason they are so noncompetitive, is because USA dropped more than 50 nuclear bombs on their islands! How would your family do if they were in “Micros” shoes?

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