Homeless shelter operators across the state have been complaining about upcoming rules they say will force them to eliminate hundreds of beds, and now one of them, Waipahu Lighthouse Outreach Center, says it will have to close next month because it can’t comply.
“We knew that complying with the specs of the contract are impossible,” said shelter director William Hummel, “and we didn’t want to enter into a contract we couldn’t fulfill.”
So Waipahu Lighthouse Outreach Center did not meet the state’s deadline to apply for a new contract. The current contract expires Jan. 31, and Hummel said the shelter might close a week or two before the end of January.
Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator, said Monday his office is working with Waipahu Lighthouse Outreach Center to find permanent housing or alternate shelter space for as many of the shelter’s clients as possible.
Waipahu Lighthouse Outreach Center is the only emergency shelter on Oahu between Kalaeloa and urban Honolulu.
It can shelter 100 people, and 73 spent the night Sunday, Hummel said. In a six-month period the shelter typically houses 400 to 500 people, he said.
Last month shelter operators representing eight of Hawaii’s homeless shelters — or fewer than half of all island shelters — told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that new state Department of Human Services contracts requiring more space for clients and better ratios of toilets and showers per client would require them to eliminate a combined total of 662 beds when the new contracts begin in February.
The estimate of lost beds “didn’t include us,” Hummel said Monday. “So you can add another 75 or so” beds to those that are expected to be lost.
In an interview with the Star-Advertiser last week, Gov. David Ige said the changes to shelter contracts are necessary because “sometimes we weren’t focused on the right outcomes. We really want … to move them (homeless clients) into a permanent situation.”
The current shelter contracts, Ige said, are silent on how clients are expected to make the transition into permanent housing.
Instead, Ige said, he wants “to ensure that the system that we have in place really moves people from being unsheltered on the street into permanent housing.”
Hummel called the new rules requiring shelters to move clients into permanent housing “ill-advised.”
“There is no permanent housing,” he said. “That’s why we have this problem.”
Waipahu Lighthouse Outreach Center’s only source of income is its state contract, so it has no money to comply with new rules that “would require massive construction,” Hummel said. “All of the requirements are devised by someone who doesn’t know anything about homelessness.
“I don’t understand what’s going on. There’s a homeless crisis, but I don’t see a crisis reaction.”