State funds urged for IHS’ homeless outreach in Waikiki
The Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association’s (HLTA) is a private sector, privately funded organization with a mission of education and advocacy on behalf of the hospitality industry.
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The Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association’s (HLTA) is a private sector, privately funded organization with a mission of education and advocacy on behalf of the hospitality industry. Likewise, our philanthropic nonprofit arm, the Hawaii Hotel Industry Foundation (HHIF), is privately funded with the goal of benefiting many local charities.
A recent Star-Advertiser editorial on homelessness implied that the visitor industry could be faulted for the Institute of Human Services’ recent cutbacks in outreach in Waikiki (“Homeless crisis ‘takes a constant effort,’” Our View, July 6).
Reporting on the HLTA’s funding for homeless services through its charitable donations, as well as the proceeds of a Hilton Hawaiian Village concert, the editorial stated, “Unfortunate- ly, the concert’s new timing prompted IHS in March to reduce its outreach and shuttle services. … With homeless issues in Waikiki top of mind, it’s troubling that visitor-industry officials weren’t able to anticipate the impact of such a change.”
In 2013, my predecessor came to an agreement with IHS that HLTA would contribute $200,000 over two years through our annual Charity Walk to launch a full-time outreach program for homelessness in Waikiki.
Not only have we fulfilled that promise, but we also partnered with the Hilton Hawaiian Village in 2015 on a benefit concert to further assist with Waikiki’s homelessness challenge. This “Hawaii for Hawaii” concert generated an additional $400,000 for IHS. Through these combined efforts, our industry has given over $600,000 to IHS since 2013.
In anticipation of supporting IHS in 2016, we came to the conclusion that the benefit concert would have to be moved from spring to fall for two reasons. One was that having the concert in May competed with our annual Charity Walk, which has raised $30 million for nonprofits statewide since 1978. Besides IHS, at least 300 other nonprofit groups throughout the state, many of them serving the homeless, are dependent on the largesse of our Charity Walk.
The second reason was that organizers of the benefit concert wanted to televise it this year in an effort to raise more money. TV executives advised us that May was not a good time to televise the event because it’s a ratings period; hence, the decision was made to shift the date.
IHS was informed immediately of these decisions over a year ago and was warned multiple times to anticipate funding was to come in late 2016. They were also made well aware that the two-year agreement had been fulfilled, and that another $100,000 from the Charity Walk’s Oahu Chapter couldn’t be promised.
Despite these warnings, IHS has been unable to solicit other sources of funding. This is why HLTA is stepping up again to guarantee IHS’ funding to continue its Waikiki work. HLTA is willing to work with IHS to create a long-overdue sustainable business plan.
However, IHS cannot depend on us alone. The city and HPD have both done a fantastic job in Waikiki. But we need other stakeholders to come forward. We urge financial support from the state to IHS on its efforts in Waikiki.
A case could be made for the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), the marketing agency that receives state funding through the hotel room tax, to join us in addressing the problem.
HTA recently funded public education videos aimed at ensuring the local community appreciates the importance of tourism.
It’s a point worth discussing considering the millions of dollars HTA expends toward our marketing efforts could be for naught if our visitors’ expectations are not met because of our homelessness problem.
Collaboration and transparency from all parties is necessary to prevent Waikiki’s homelessness situation from regressing. After all, as our association’s mantra states, “We’re all in this together.”