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Honolulu councilwoman calls for more hygiene centers for homeless

Honolulu City Councilwoman Kym Pine is urging the Caldwell administration to set up more mobile hygiene centers across the island to help the island’s homeless population in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“More than ever, the importance of keeping the island clean should be our top priority, yet for O‘ahu’s vulnerable homeless population, basic hygiene can be nearly impossible,” Pine said in a news release. “Hand-washing, showering and clean clothes are basic needs, not luxuries.”

Pine, who is a candidate this fall to replace the term-limited Mayor Kirk Caldwell, urged him to set up hygiene centers similar to the Revive + Refresh hygiene center that opened in 2018. The center offers those in need a hot shower, the use of toilets and other basic necessities.

Pine noted the Council last year approved $21 million to address homelessness issues in all nine Council districts, money that could be used to establish more hygiene centers. Separately, she said, she appropriated $2 million to help a Waianae Coast homeless community, money that also could be used for a hygiene center.

Marc Alexander, Caldwell’s housing director, said the administration agrees with Pine that hygiene centers are important and set up Revive + Refresh “with support from the City Council,” as well the stationary Punawai Rest Stop in Iwilei last year. Punawai, besides providing showers and restrooms, offers a variety of other services including laundry, mail and computer access.

Alexander, in a statement, said “city financial policies may prohibit use of CIP (capital improvement program) funds on such a mobile hygiene trailer based on the estimated life of the asset.”

He estimated it would cost about $300,000 to purchase a trailer, $120,000 for an operator to provide cleaning and supplies and $110,000 pumping costs.

In response, Pine said she’s glad the administration has not rejected her proposal outright.

Pine said she also wants the administration to step up the cleaning and sanitization of city facilities where people congregate.

Ross Sasamura, director of the city Department of Facility Maintenance, said his agency already has done that in city facilities most frequented by employees and the public. “ Areas that would normally receive attention once per day are now receiving two to three passes per day with disinfecting cleaners,” Sasamura said.

He added that hand- sanitizing dispensing stations are anticipated to be in place in public areas of Honolulu Hale, the Frank F. Fasi Municipal Building, Kapalama Hale and Kapolei Hale by Monday. The city has installed posters and signs throughout reminding people to follow guidelines for avoiding contracting communicable diseases as prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state Department of Health, Sasamura said.

Caldwell spokesman Alexander Zannes said the city, as of Wednesday, had not increased the amount of cleaning at municipal parks and beaches. Park facilities are cleaned at least two to four times daily, more frequently if they are heavily used, according to city officials.

Earlier this week, privately contracted Oahu Transit Services said it has increased the frequency with which buses and Handi-Vans are cleaned with disinfectants.

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