Gov. Neil Abercrombie and homelessness coordinator Marc Alexander on Tuesday announced a 9-point plan to alleviate Hawaii’s homeless crisis — in 90 days.
While acknowledging the problem won’t go away any time soon, the officials said residents, especially in Honolulu’s urban core, should notice visible improvements.
Alexander said the plan begins with helping shelter the chronically homeless by moving them off the street in areas like Waikiki and Kakaako.
“The approach will be constant, consistent, ongoing and relentless in terms of attention being paid,” said Abercrombie.
The 90-day plan was unveiled at the governor’s Executive Office at the Capitol with about a dozen stakeholder groups in attendance.
The plan, according to the governor’s office, “coordinates government, non-profits, community and faith-based organizations, businesses, shelter and outreach services, and citizens to increase opportunities for people who are homeless to receive services.”
The plan’s nine specific objectives are as follows:
1) Identify and assess people who are chronically homeless for immediate services in Waikiki and the urban core of Honolulu.
2) Support the chronically homeless and chronically mentally ill who need mental health treatment.
3) Identify available substance abuse treatment services and gaps in services to maximize access for the chronically homeless in need.
4) Identify and provide outreach as early as possible where persons who are homeless are established or increasing in number.
5) Coordinate community efforts to maintain clean public areas.
6) Ensure that existing shelters are maximized for capacity and service.
7) Provide information about sound relocation and financial planning, including Hawaii’s high cost of living, to individuals and families outside of Hawaii who inquire about the availability of services.
8) Establish the State Interagency Council on Homelessness.
9) Educate the general public about the most effective means to eliminate homelessness.
The homeless plan follows the launch of an initiative last month that allow members of the public to contact support groups when they believe someone is suffering from homelessness.
Alexander said the service has resulted in more than 200 emails and calls throughout the state, some identifying people who required emergency assistance.
“There was an over 50-percent increase on Oahu alone,” he said. “That’s significant, and that helps us to help those who want to help themselves.”
Please Don’t Feed the Homeless
Abercrombie’s plan is based on a plan at the federal level to end homelessness.
None of the nine parts of the plan are new, but having Alexander serve as a central point man for a broad range of groups is new in terms of the state’s efforts.
The governor is expected to issue an executive order in the coming weeks to establish the interagency council. The council will be funded primarily through support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Creating more affordable housing is not part of the 90-day plan, but the governor said “that comes later.”
In the meantime, Abercrombie and Alexander said citizens should avoid giving handouts to homeless people. They said it does nothing to reduce the numbers of homeless people but rather probably helps increase their numbers.
“Simply feeding people is not something we can countenance,” said Abercrombie.
The 90-day plan officially kicked off Tuesday and ends Aug. 17. The administration will set benchmarks to measure what worked, and what did not.
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