The homeless population in Hawaii continues to rise Photo: Emily Metcalf
Photo: Emily Metcalf

REPORT FROM THE OFFICE OF COUNCIL MEMBER STANLEY CHANG –  In ancient Hawaii, a pu‘uhonua was a city of refuge. If those who violated the kapu could physically run to the pu‘uhonua before any pursuers, they were safe.

Today, homelessness has reached crisis levels in Honolulu. According to the most recent survey, Oahu has 4,353 homeless individuals, of which 1,318 are unsheltered on any given night, and 96 percent of Honolulu residents consider homelessness a major or moderate issue.

Homelessness is overwhelmingly the top issue of the tourism industry on which Hawaii’s economy depends. Despite recent initiatives, complaints have not declined, increasing recent months.

With the sale of the City’s affordable housing projects, a record total of $77 million will become available in new and existing funds to address homelessness. Additional enforcement measures, which are needed, will only move the homeless around from neighborhood to neighborhood unless they have a place to go.

That’s why the step with the greatest immediate impact is establishing a pu‘uhonua for the homeless with security, mental health and substance abuse treatment, case management, and other services to transition the homeless into permanent housing. The funds can also support construction of new affordable housing and other ongoing programs for the long term.

Councilmember Chang has cointroduced Resolution 13-55 for a comprehensive action plan to house the unsheltered homeless with concrete deadlines and benchmarks for the best use of these funds.