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Homelessness prevention prioritized

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    “We’ve pushed for better policies and made tremendous progress. We want to keep our eye on the target no matter where they are — in Kakaako or some other area.”

    Scott Morishige

    State coordinator of homeless initiatives, shown at right at a news conference Monday in Kakaako with Jen Stasch, director, Partners in Care, left; and Greg Payton, executive director of Mental Health Kokua

Programs that keep people from falling into homelessness and provide access to permanent housing top this year’s legislative priority list compiled by Partners in Care, a collaboration among 35 nonprofits, advocates and government agencies seeking to end homelessness on Oahu.

Partners in Care officials discussed their 2017 legislative priorities at a news conference Monday afternoon at Kakaako Gateway Park, which was once the site of a homeless encampment. State Rep. Tom Brower, the House of Representatives’ new housing committee chairman, was attacked June 29, 2015, while photographing homeless people living there.

While Partners in Care existed prior to Brower’s beating, the crime highlighted the need for a more galvanized effort to address what happens when there aren’t enough homes and individuals live in places that are not meant for habitation.

“Just over a year ago, this park looked very different. There were about 300 homeless people living in tents,” said Scott Morishige, the state’s chief coordinator of homeless initiatives. “We’ve pushed for better policies and made tremendous progress. We want to keep our eye on the target no matter where they are — in Kakaako or some other area.”

Greg Payton, executive director of Mental Health Kokua and Partners in Care advocacy committee chairman, said Oahu’s latest approach focuses on meeting three main housing needs, including:

>> Permanent supportive housing, which provides ongoing case management or rent subsidies.

>> Rapid rehousing programs that require shorter-term case management and rental subsidies.

>> Mainstream needs, which don’t require case management and often can be as simple as one-time payments for first month’s rent/deposit.

“It’s not that much different from last year, but we’re asking for sustainable services and rental subsidies,” Payton said.

Chronically homeless, veterans, unaccompanied youth and families take precedence, said Jen Stasch, Partners in Care director. “It’s really about making sure that there is a consistent and repetitive effort,” Stasch said.

Morishige said the effort by all Partners and Care members, including the city, removed 290 homeless individuals from Kakaako by 2016’s end. It assisted about 5,000 Oahu residents, keeping some from becoming homeless and moving others into shelters and permanent housing, he said. There also was a 25 percent reduction in evictions last year, Morishige added.

Even with those results, the 2016 point-in-time count of homeless individuals rose nearly 1 percent to 4,940 on Oahu.

Morishige said the state’s proposed 2017 housing budget is increased slightly from last year’s $150 million, which would move the state toward its goal of increasing housing production by 10,000 units by 202o. About $2.5 million would go to rapid rehousing, and $7 million would fund rental subsidies.

The state wants to raise its budget for homeless serv­ices to $20.9 million, a more than 74 percent increase from last year’s $12 million allocation, Morishige said. While it’s too soon to forecast the impact on homelessness if the Affordable Care Act were repealed, Morishige said, the state is working on expanding Medicaid waivers.

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    • Agreed yet ENFORCEMENT is also necessary. There’s so many now camping along the H-1 freeway slope by the Punchbowl exit town bound. I would think the liability of trash/individuals falling into the freeway would spur the State to remove them.

  • I will vote for that as well. Time to cleanup our communities and make Hawaii communities Great again. Help the homeless that wants to help themselves get back on their feet once again, others who don’t, can live in a temporary tent city somewhere or go back where they came from. When will our local leaders / authorities going to start enforcing some of our basic laws on these people who don’t like to comply with our laws to apply to everyone else.

  • Just more of the same Democrat solutions–throw taxpayer money at the problem and take credit for any improvements. No personal responsibility required from recipients. Come one, come all, free money for all Hawaii freeloaders!

  • This is a losing battle. The state provides people with immediate welfare and medical services, fresh off the airplane with no waiting period. Who DOESN’T want to live in Hawaii for free, compared to winter on the mainland? And eventually, global warming will make the low-laying islands and atolls in Micronesia uninhabitable, and where do you think their entire populations will go to freeload? Hawaii brought this on itself, and will pay the price in the future. Thank God I’ll be dead, but at least I got to see Hawaii when it was still a beautiful place for the working class. Future generations will have a third world toilet with great wealth disparity — rich investors living along the waterfront, and the rest of the people living in poverty in the slums. Ever been to Rio? Sort of like that.

  • In the ’60s, the legislature tried to enact a law limiting immigration. The ACLU stomped all over them as it was unconstitutional. Hence, freedom of movement means that anyone can move here, regardless of their abilities to function, make a living, and contribute to the community. We all end of paying the bills whether it’s in the form of increasing housing costs due to supply and demand or supporting folks who can’t support themselves. In either case, we locals are getting pushed out of our own home.

  • Lack of affordable housing plays a huge part in homelessness. We need to build more affordable housing for the so-called working poor…families who are working very hard and trying their very best to keep their families going.

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