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Legislators consider ‘safe zones’ for homeless encampments

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    People camped out on a sidewalk, in June 2015, in Kakaako. State lawmakers are exploring setting up “safe zones” for homeless people to camp, one of an array of offbeat solutions to its homelessness crisis which ranks worst in the nation.

State lawmakers are exploring setting up “safe zones” for homeless people to camp, one of an array of offbeat solutions to its homelessness crisis which ranks worst in the nation.

They’re also considering allowing people to lease their driveways for homeless people to live in cars or tents and allowing counties to set up parks featuring mobile homes, traditional Hawaiian thatched homes and shipping containers.

But Gov. David Ige’s office is fighting the bills, saying state-sanctioned homeless encampments are unsafe and contradict federal housing recommendations, risking Hawaii’s federal housing money.

“Some of these areas that are being identified as potential homeless campgrounds are very isolated, difficult for people to get to, so it’s not necessarily a given that even if you provide it that people would go there,” said Scott Morishige, the governor’s homelessness coordinator.

A state task force said sanctioned encampments are a bad idea because they encourage a nomadic lifestyle and divert money needed for permanent housing.

Portland and Seattle, which allowed legal camping, struggled with safety issues, just as Honolulu did when it set up a camp in the early ’90s that had to be shut down by police, Morishige said.

But the pace of new affordable housing development is not keeping up with demand, and the question of where people should go while the number of homeless people outstrips the number of homes and shelter beds remains unanswered.

Will Espero, chairman of the Senate Housing Committee, is pushing for a large-scale sanctioned encampment on Sand Island, an industrial area in Honolulu.

“At the very least, Sand Island today has recreational camping that at full capacity will hold 400 people,” Espero said. “You could have 400 people there tomorrow. But instead they’re living in parks.”

Tom Brower, chairman of the House Housing Committee, said Ige’s opposition to the bills is ironic because the state has allowed homeless encampments to exist.

“The only time they enforce is when the community screams and yells about it for months,” said Brower, who was attacked at a Honolulu homeless encampment two years ago when taking photos of living conditions. Setting aside places where people can legally camp, including driveways, would make it easier to enforce laws in other areas, he said.

“It’s not that we want people to camp in someone’s driveway,” Brower said, “but with the situation we have now people camping everywhere…would that stop them from camping somewhere else where they shouldn’t be?”

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    • Hard to believe the silly and inept City Council led by a gormless mayor is considering sending the homeless into neighborhood encampments. The horrible monopoly party out here is so out of touch with the community it is horrible. There is, by the way, many unoccupied shelter beds. Please identify them and use them.

  • We absolutely SHOULD build a homeless safe zone…on Kahoolawe.

    Give them free batu, knives, shovels and alcohol.

    Let nature (or the unexploded ordinance) take its course.

    Aloha.

  • The programs that currently exist for the homeless are only focused on meeting the immediate needs of the homeless but very little is being done to
    meet the demand for housing and every day, more homeless are created. Subsidizing rents for the homeless is also a short term solution
    and very expensive so much so that it cannot be continued for very long. Because these program will only provide a subsidy for only so long,
    when the people have to leave, they will largely return to the street, and the cycle repeats itself.
    Unless the state and county governments do not work in a partnership to build housing, the problem will continue to worsen.
    The downside of doing this is that this may have the effect of attracting even more people to move here.
    I know that this idea may be seen as kind of loopy, but my suggestion is that an effort be made to actually encourage an out-migration of people
    to the mainland where opportunities may be better.
    Otherwise, things will just worsen as the cost of living here increases and more people fall by the wayside.

    • Of course the wise know how all this mess is created: Balmy climate and Population growth fuels un-affordable housing prices, which makes rents un-affordable and spawns the homeless.

  • safe zones:
    washington place (Ige’s backyard), State Capitol, city hall get plenty grass and trees, ACLU sidewalk and offices, and every single politicians driveway. Make it a law that every elected official has to house one homeless on their driveway.
    send all mainland homeless back, drug/alcohol test every single homeless and if they test positive, take away all their welfare, foodstamps benefits. We all struggle, but still work hard and its sickening to watch all these losers who had a chance to make something of their lives and now the are allowed to stink up hawaii. I know i’ll get bashed by all those soft hearted liberals, but before you bash me, please take them and house them at your home or driveway.
    I can’t stand seeing these losers standing with their signs of NO WORK, disabled, please help. Well you loser, you can stand at costco or pali off ramp all F N day, why can’t you get a job cleaning toilets or something. you get $2 in change thrown at you and if you worked at mc donalds, you could earn $60 – $70 a day at mcdonalds with free meal. but because they are so damn lazy and worthless, they don’t want to give up their free welfare benefits.
    IF they have mental health issues, then damn it, get some help. most of all these people don’t want help, they just like being homeless and making others uncomfortable. its time that we take back our sidewalks, parks for our kids and for all the hard working people and families that pay all these taxes. can’t even enjoy walking around ala moana park without smell, pakalolo, and urine and feces. bet most people don’t even go to kakaako park anymore.
    Why are there homeless camping out at ala moana park when they park is closed. how come the city not enforcing this!
    SICKENING!!

  • “A state task force said sanctioned encampments are a bad idea because they encourage a nomadic lifestyle and divert money needed for permanent housing.” –
    Translation – how does a state sanctioned homeless camp benefit the administration or it’s campaign donors? It doesn’t, accordingly Governor Ige will not support the measure.

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