BY MIRIAM LANDRU – Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s plan to get Honolulu’s homeless off the street in 90 days may have wrapped up this week, but work is still being done to end Hawaii’s ongoing plight.
The national plan is to end homelessness across America in 10 years. Hawaii is hoping to follow suit.
“This is a long range project. This is not something that is going to change overnight. As the Governor says, we are trying to people to collect on attitudes, to change the culture on how we help, to make sure it really does lead to the end of homelessness,” affirmed Marc Alexander, the State’s Homelessness Coordinator.
Many have criticized Abercrombie over the idea that Honolulu’s homeless would be off the streets in 90 days. Some homeless advocates and social workers say the only reason the plan was launched in the first is to clean up the streets before the APEC conference brings leaders from around the world to Honolulu this November.
However, Abercrombie disagrees. “To a degree if APEC benefits or doesn’t benefit from this, it’s all well and good. Our focus is on homelessness and ending it. Our focus is on letting people know they can change their circumstances.”
Strides were made to improve the homeless situation in the Waikiki/Urban core area and across the state. Over 200 people from Wakiki and downtown Honolulu were moved from the streets and emergency shelters into housing. Sixty five people on Maui, 44 people on Kauai, and 136 people on the Big Island were moved into permanent housing. Eighty five people on the Waianae coast were also moved into some sort of transitional or permanent housing.
Changes have also been made at Kakaako’s Next Step Shelter. Originally, the shelter closed during the day on weekends. Now, residents of the shelter can return there on Friday evening and stay until Monday morning. “We have a waiting list and it’s just been through the roof. They’ve been hearing it’s going to be open on the weekends. All the more reason for more to come,” said Utu Langhi, Next Step Executive Director.
Next Step slso has been innovative, creating a hydroponic plant program for the residents to maintain.
In addition, residents are active in Citizen’s Patrol, District 1, a neighborhood watch group which patrols the Kakaako area.
Programs like this help residents like Pete Fonseca III stay busy and keep up hope. “It’s a good thing to keep you going. Keep you busy and help the community.”
Hawaii’s first State Interagency Council on Homelessness, partially funded by a $53,000 U.S. Housing and Urban
Development grant, will hold their first meeting August 25.
“We just want to continue what we’ve been doing with the new protocols. The big thing is the interagency council. We want them to develop a big plan and then we can really move on,” said Alexander.