Democrats also have mental health bills in the works.

Homeless people in Hawaii might soon have to undergo mandatory mental-health care if a bill the House GOP caucus is proposing passes. 

One of the bill’s supporters, Rep. Diamond Garcia, said that homeless people should either be arrested and charged with trespassing or other crimes or go to a mental health treatment center. As a Republican, he says that Democrats continually enable the issue at hand by keeping the option for homeless individuals to stay on the streets open. 

Rep. John Mizuno, a Democrat and chairman of the House Human Services Committee, said that the Democrats have always considered mental health to be an important area.

Tents along the sidewalk at Moiliili Neighborhood Park as a sweep happens inside the park. The people move their belongings on the public sidewalk to avoid having their possessions taken.
Rep. Diamond Garcia is advocating for a bill that would require some homeless people to go into mental health treatment. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022)

He said that a bill targeted for more services for adult and youth mental health will probably be seen in their majority package. Proposals by Hawaii Republicans, like the bill put forward by the House GOP, have a slim chance of making it in a Legislature dominated by Democrats.

Many from the homeless population live on sidewalks and camp out at parks, such as the Old Stadium Park and the Moiliili Neighborhood Park, Garcia said. With tax money funding public park maintenance, Garcia said that residents should have the right to walk safely through a park and enjoy public recreation.

The state’s most recent point-in-time count taken January 2022 showed the homeless population grew on neighbor islands. A separate count done in March 2022 found 3,951 people experiencing homelessness on Oahu. Garcia has questioned the accuracy of those reports and believes they undercount the true number of homeless people in the islands, noting that he knows some who have not been counted and that other unidentified homeless people may be hiding.

Gov. Josh Green has a different plan to tackle homelessness than that put forward by the House Republicans. His administration projects that it can cut down the homeless population in half by 2026 and effectively eliminate chronic homelessness by 2030. This year, the administration plans to invest in the creation 12 tiny home communities across the islands.

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