Editorial | Our View Don’t let up on helping homeless May 11, 2018 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Despite some encouraging signs and actions — including the city’s acquisition of lower-rent units in the heart of Waikiki — it is far too early for any let-up in the campaign to counter homelessness. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Despite some encouraging signs and actions — including the city’s acquisition of lower-rent units in the heart of Waikiki — it is far too early for any let-up in the campaign to counter homelessness. The social service agencies that have been working on this community crisis for the past decade or more seem fully aware of that. Example: The statewide Point-in-Time Count, the annual homelessness census, decreased on all islands for the first time in nine years. The Hawaii homeless population dropped almost 10 percent to 6,530, according to the count by the volunteer crews. While that provides hopeful data — Oahu’s count had been stubbornly persistent — the count is a mere snapshot and does not capture the full picture. A series of homeless “sweeps” preceding the count, which took stock of homeless populations for Jan. 22, left many homeless angry, said Kimo Carvalho, community relations director for the Institute for Human Services. Some of them opted out of engaging with the volunteer census crews, which affects the accuracy of the count, he added — and it’s an observation that some of the homeless residents of the encampments readily confirm. That’s why it will take some years to show a definitive downward trendline in homeless population, and Hawaii will have to throw everything it has at the problem to resolve it. One addition announced this week: The city has bought its first building in Waikiki geared for tenants participating in Housing First, the program aimed at getting chronically homeless people housed securely as an initial step in stabilizing their general condition through “wrap-around” social-service and health support. There are 33 units in the building at 436 Ena Road, with 20 percent reserved for Housing First clients. Yes, that’s only some half-dozen apartments added to the woefully inadequate housing inventory available to the state’s poorest residents. But the project is important on other fronts as well. It is the first complex acquired by the city in Waikiki, where there is a homeless population and deep concerns about the effects on the visitors as well as the residential community. Waikiki community leaders have supported this use for the eight-story Guy Fong Tower, where established tenants will remain. In the past, urban neighborhoods have been dubious about the prospects of having a lower-income project nearby. It is crucial to demonstrate that the “not in my backyard” response to such initiatives is unwarranted; the NIMBY attitude has to give way to reality. There’s reason to hope that a success here — with some of the Housing First tenants retaking their lives and other homeless becoming renters who move upward — will help to erode that resistance. Over time, the city hopes that more than half the units can be reserved for those making 60 percent of the area median income or less. So the goal here is to demonstrate that the homeless (soon to be “formerly homeless”) can settle in comfortably with a somewhat diverse mix of tenants. If neighbors would like to get them off the streets, they should have a place to live within the community that they know. Hawaii’s homeless population is itself diverse, and directing them off the streets will require a range of options. It was good to see state lawmakers supporting multiple approaches this session, such as vouchers to help those on the edge remain housed, as well as funding of “ohana zones” that should be developed to provide at least transitional stability. As much as temporary shelter is not seen as the ideal solution to homelessness, it’s critical that there be a pathway to stable living conditions, one that unhoused individuals can see will lead to permanent housing. That pathway creates hope, a commodity in short supply. And it’s worthy of Hawaii’s investment. Previous Story Ige should approve proper ohana zones Next Story Pehea ana lā ka manaʻo o Pele?