Hawaii will take new approaches to reducing homelessness in 2017 and Honolulu should see several new projects come online, including the state’s first all-in-one project that will provide showers, laundry machines, two floors of permanent housing, and social services for mental illness and substance abuse in Iwilei.
State officials say they plan to expand homeless projects and outreach to homeless people on the neighbor islands.
But there are already signs of problems as the state attempts to change the culture at island homeless shelters by giving clients more space while trying to move them faster into permanent housing.
Shelter operators representing eight of Hawaii’s homeless shelters told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in November that new state Department of Human Services contracts would require eliminating a total of 662 beds when the new contracts begin in February.
In December, officials at Waipahu Lighthouse Outreach Center said they will have to eliminate another 100 beds when their shelter closes next month because it can’t comply with the new requirements.
At the same time, the city plans to expand the concept of a so-called “navigation center” at a four-story, industrial building in Iwilei that will include housing for the homeless with an emphasis on moving them out quickly into permanent housing.
The city’s first attempt under Mayor Kirk Caldwell at Sand Island’s Hale Mauliola community has found success getting so-called “chronically homeless” people into long-term housing.
Caldwell plans to expand the idea on a larger scale at 431 Kuwili St. in Iwilei, where the city last year spent $6.3 million to buy the building. It’s one of several homeless-related housing projects on Oahu that are expected to open in 2017.
The city’s only “hygiene center,” in Chinatown, includes one 8-by-12-foot room with one shower, toilet and sink, for women and an identical room for men.