Homelessness, cost of living cited as major concerns in Hawaii
  • Tuesday, March 26, 2019
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Hawaii News

Homelessness, cost of living cited as major concerns in Hawaii

  • BRUCE ASATO / 2017

    Homeless campers collect their tents and bedding at left, as personnel from the City’s Department of Facility Maintenance are called out to the Kakaako sidewalks to clear out belongings put down by homeless people.

  • GEORGE F. LEE / FEB. 7

    79% of voters believe homelessness has gotten worse. 57% of voters agreed that, “State and county governments need to invest more in mental health, drug treatment and other programs designed to move the homeless into permanent housing.”

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / 2018

    47% of voters cited Hawaii’s cost of living as the primary reason they or someone in their household thought about moving away.

  • DENNIS ODA / 2018

    27% of voters agreed that, “State and county governments need to take a tougher, more aggressive stance when it comes to removing the homeless from public spaces, including parks.”

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / JAN. 7

    45% of Hawaii voters live in homes where someone is considering moving away — or has already left.

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Some 45 percent of Hawaii voters live in homes where someone is considering moving away — or has already left the islands — typically because of the cost of living, according to a new poll of voters conducted for Pacific Resource Partnership.

Voters who are thinking of leaving — or had someone in their household leave — tend to be age 18-34 (66 percent); have kids in private school (56 percent); attended private school (54 percent); are college graduates (51 percent); have household incomes above $60,000 (51 percent); and rent (50 percent).

They cited Hawaii’s cost of living as the primary reason — by a plurality of 47 percent — that they or someone in their household thought about moving away.

The Hawaii Perspectives poll also found island voters are overwhelmingly worried about Hawaii’s homeless population, the highest per capita rate in the nation.

When asked what issues have gotten worse over the past couple of years, a whopping 79 percent said homelessness.

“Homelessness” was the No. 1 response, ahead of “the availability of housing that families like yours can afford” (71 percent); “achieving the right mix of housing options at all income levels” (59 percent); crime, violence and drug abuse (57 percent); and the affordability of college (42 percent).

Some 73 percent said the number of homeless living on “our streets” is either one of the things they worry most about or one of the things they worry a great deal about. It barely trailed the availability and affordability of homeownership (74 percent); and came just ahead of the cost of living (71 percent).

Lisa Grove ran the Hawaii Perspectives poll for PRP, which represents more than 240 contractors as well as the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters, Hawaii’s largest construction union.

Grove believes there’s a connection between the key findings of the poll.

“It’s housing, it’s the cost of living, it’s homelessness,” she said.

While some poll respondents are sympathetic to the homeless and others are likely frustrated, Grove believes that many people worry that they, too, could end up on the streets.

“It’s the ‘there, but the grace of God, go I piece: They’ve had their catastrophe and I haven’t. That could be me,’” Grove said. “Life is tenuous.”

The Hawaii Perspectives poll found most respondents prefer treatment for the homeless over sweeps.

Some 57 percent agreed with the statement, “State and county governments need to invest more in mental health, drug treatment and other programs designed to move the homeless into permanent housing.”

Only 27 percent believe that “State and county governments need to take a tougher, more aggressive stance when it comes to removing the homeless from public spaces, including parks.”

Only 10 percent agreed, “State and county governments have too many other pressing needs. We need local nonprofits and religious groups to carry the burden.”

The poll was conducted across the islands and surveyed 942 registered voters from Feb. 4-12. It had a margin of error of 3.2 percent. Another poll for PRP is planned for the fall.

Kyle Chock, PRP’s interim executive director, said PRP launched the Hawaii Perspectives poll after a lull of several years to survey voters and find out what’s keeping them up at night.

“It’s important for us to give a sense of urgency to leadership in our state — political and business and labor — on issues that are top of mind to people in the community,” Chock said. “We hope to create a sense of urgency about where government puts its resources.”

A plurality of respondents (19 percent) also cited homelessness as the most important issue or problem that Gov. David Ige and the state Legislature should make a top priority; followed by “high cost of living” (12 percent); education/schools (12 percent); economy/jobs (8 percent); budget/spending/taxes (7 percent); infrastructure, like roads and bridges (6 percent); environment/climate change/clean energy/water quality (5 percent): rail (5 percent); and health care/health insurance/Rx drugs (4 percent).

“On the mainland, health care would be the main issue and jobs would be second,” Grove said. “… This is the only state in the country where you can see health care at the bottom of the list.”

BY THE NUMBERS

>> 45: Percent of Hawaii voters who live in homes where someone is considering moving away — or has already left.

>> 47: Percent of voters who cited Hawaii’s cost of living as the primary reason they or someone in their household thought about moving away.

>> 79: Percent of voters who believe homelessness has gotten worse.

>> 57: Percent of voters who agree that, “State and county governments need to invest more in mental health, drug treatment and other programs designed to move the homeless into permanent housing.”

>> 27: Percent of voters who agreed that, “State and county governments need to take a tougher, more aggressive stance when it comes to removing the homeless from public spaces, including parks.”

Source: Hawaii Perspectives poll

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