Hawaii’s rising homeless population – hot political topic

article top
Photo: Emily Metcalf
Photo: Emily Metcalf

HONOLULU – Oahu’s homeless are most visible in Kakaako, Waikiki, and Chinatown but they are everywhere throughout the state, in the parks and bushes and at the beach.

Several of Hawaii’s political candidates have made addressing Hawaii’s homelessness and lack of housing a top issue this election.

Photo: Emily Metcalf
Photo: Emily Metcalf

Jeff Davis, a Libertarian candidate for governor, has been holding a series of celebrity sleepovers in Kakaako, to bring attention to a homeless city that’s been constructed there.

Davis, who has been sleeping in the park with the homeless to get a better understanding of the issues the homeless populations face, said he’s concerned for the children who live in this camp with very little protection or support.

Davis compared Kakaako to the homeless villages in the Philippines.

Homeless court, partnership with Hawaii National Guard, could identify, help homeless

Former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, who is running for governor, has also made addressing homelessness in Hawaii a top priority.

The homeless population has increased 30 percent since 2010, and Aiona said it is a public safety issue for everyone.

Aiona has outlined two policy initiatives, which he said will have an immediate impact on over two-thirds of the state’s homeless population, including veterans, those with mental illness and chronic substance abuse users.

Photo: Emily Metcalf
Photo: Emily Metcalf

To address Hawaii’s veteran homeless population, one of the worst in the nation, Aiona will immediately implement a program in conjunction with the Hawai‘i National Guard.

He said he will direct the Guard to ‘leave no service member behind’ with peer-to-peer outreach to homeless veterans, which will get them the job training and services for mental health and substance abuse.

To address the over two-thirds of Hawaii’s homeless who are not veterans, but who are either mentally ill or chronic substance abusers, Aiona plans to create a Homeless Court similar to those in other states.

The Homeless Court, which will allow homeless to immediately get off the streets, will be mobile coming to the homeless, rather than the homeless having to come to court.

Legislator wants tent cities, dorms – temporarily

State Sen. Will Espero, a candidate for Hawaii’s Congressional District 2, said the need for affordable housing in the state has reached critical mass.

“With a new generation of working class families seeking housing, it is imperative that our state help to address the state’s limited supply of housing options. While the affordable housing supply is critical, the homeless crisis in our state, especially in Honolulu, is an epidemic that requires immediate attention by government and the private sector,” Espero said.

During the 2014 legislative session, policymakers made significant headway in addressing affordable housing and homelessness by the passage of several key measures, he said.

  • Senate Bill 2542 will divert $33 million to provide loans and grants for the development and construction of rental housing units.
  • House Bill 2251 increases the Hula Mae Multifamily Revenue Bond authorization, which helps first-time homebuyers with 30-year mortgages, from $750,000,000 to $1,000,000,000.
  • House Bill 2248 authorizes the Hawaii Housing Finance Development Corporation to issue bonds for infrastructure for land owned by an eligible developer of affordable housing.
  • House Bill 1700 includes $52 million in appropriations to address housing and homelessness including an appropriation for the Housing First program.

Espero said lawmakers also need to think creatively to tackle the problem. He believes the state should set up a temporary homeless village at Sand Island in Kalihi using as many as 100 tents, restrooms, showers and social service support. The homeless there would also be offered parking, transportation, and security.

Dormitory-style housing for adults is another option, Espero said.

Both would be temporary solutions while affordable housing is being built, Espero said.

City Council bills controversial

Meanwhile the city is also addressing homelessness, but city council members bills have been controversial.

Kathryn Xian, a Democratic candidate for Congressional District 1, has opposed the Honolulu City Council’s efforts to “criminalize the homeless.”

She rallied her supporters on Facebook this week to defeat the city council’s efforts to pass five ordinances that would go as far as prohibiting anyone from sitting or lying on public sidewalks or using the bathroom in public.

Photo: Emily Metcalf
Photo: Emily Metcalf

Businesses want the legislation passed because they say they can’t operate when homeless are sleeping in front of their door and using the bathroom on the sidewalks and doorways.

But Xian said the “houseless” need help, not punishment. “We need housing first, not jail first. What we’re looking at is a very dangerous precedent of state sanction, criminalization of poverty and that’s not somewhere we want to go,”  Xian said.

Four of the five bills passed the Honolulu City Council Zoning and Planning Committee and will go before the full city council on July 9 for a second vote and public hearing.

The bills need to pass the majority of the 9 member city council on third reading and get the mayor’s approval before becoming law.

Honolulu police and the state court system will have an additional challenge in enforcing the law.

Where are the homeless coming from?

There have been allegations that mainland states purchase one way airline tickets for homeless and send them to Hawaii to live on the streets because it’s cheaper to do that then provide government benefits.

In addition, Hawaii’s warm weather and generous government funded social service programs could provide a better lifestyle for homeless living in colder climate states.

Aiona said he will tackle that issue if elected. He already sent a warning to the other 49 states: “When I become Governor, if we determine that any state is engaged in this practice, we will send them back, we will bill the responsible state and I will collect. I will direct our Attorney General to collect on our expenses in returning your resident back to your state.”





  1. Jeff Davis has real solutions, that make sense…check out his website jeffdavisgovernor.com

  2. jeff davis wants to involve the government .that is not a solution.that is a big part of the problem.that is not libertarian.it's not even common sense.i saw his website. pretty lame.but anyone is better than Abercrombie.

  3. Dormitories and soup kitchens are the best ideas. And the dorms will need the folks utilizing them to wash the sheets, and the dishes in the kitchens, etc. People with the incentive can "manage" and thus get "job skills" to move up in the world. Why should these folks get help from the government to buy homes when hard-working middle class people with kids and two jobs still can't afford to purchase their own homes. There will always be some homeless people by choice so forget the tents and son on. Build clean, safe structures in appropriate areas and let these fellow men and women make their choice. Then, sleeping in the doorway of a business establishment could be illegal.

    • Sad that most of them had regular lives until coke & meth controlled then bakrupted & forced this poverty upon them.
      Others should learn from this…..NEVER try coke or meth.
      Should the homeless drug addicts be pitied?
      Your choice.

      • how in the hell is it sad when people as long as their asses ain't black and on drugs you all need to burn in hell for your hypocrisy!!

  4. Davis strikes me as a white Jesse Jackasson. Ms. Xian is blaming business as being inhumane when rightly complaining that pediculous bums are sprawled out in their doorways attracting flies, and having a chilling effect on their
    lively hoods.
    Iona has the best Ideas.
    My idea is to firmly plant a size 14EEE size Florsheim directly to where it's needed. Lets send them back to skid row Lost Angeles, and it's sister city, San Fransicko!

  5. Resources. Oahu is an island with limited resources and does not have adequate resources for homeless situations. Look at your streets. Like it or not, compassion for the homeless means sending them to the mainland where there are resources. Its just a fact of life; Oahu is an island and does not have adequate resources to manage a homeless situation. If you are retired or working and able to sustain yourself, then island life is manageable. Chronic homeless are not able to support themselves and combined with scarce resources of the island the homeless will be best served on the mainland where there are adequate resources to manage homeless needs. This is not democracy. It is about sustainability and resources.

  6. Solution 1. Total Homeless/Costs/Those Willing to Pay. Take total homeless costs and divide it by those willing to pay and that equals your personal share of expenses you need to pay per homeless person.

    Solution 2. Take personal responsibility. If you find it necessary to do something about homeless needs, utilize your personal resources. Take them to your home, feed, cloth, and shelter them at your expense. If you want to build a dormitory use your personal resources and cover the expenses.

    Solution 3. Take the homeless to available federal centers. North and South Carolina rounded up homeless and put them in vacant FEMA camps. There they have food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. They do not have drugs. They do not have alcohol. They do not commit property crimes.

    Selfish. It is selfish to allocate onto others the burden of costs based on individual or individuals feelings or compassion for the chronic homeless. Its selfish because why would anyone consider your needs anymore than you consider theirs?

    Outrageous. Spreading costs across the citizen base to pay for the homeless without giving those paying the costs a choice is selfish. Individuals can use personal resources to manage any situation they feel appropriate but it is not appropriate to allocate costs of ideology onto others anymore than you would accept others allocating their ideology onto yourself.

    This is not about democracy or community. This is about allocating other people's limited resources towards a situation that those paying the costs do not have a choice. Anyone advocating allocating costs onto others should be well prepared to accept the full burden of the costs allocated onto themselves. Its not about democracy or fairness; its about the unacceptable allocation of personal resources.

  7. Please show me some statistics pointing out the number of mainland homeless. Please show me some actual proof other than local allegations. The problem is the $7.50 minimum wage, inflated housing and big business. As long as the propaganda machine has you blaming mainlanders thous greedy bastard will keep lining there pockets while working folks struggle to keep themselves afloat. There is a shortage of low income housing but we continue to build million dollar condos. WTF. Its like the traffic. No body complains about spending more than two hours on the road trying to get home every night, while the star bulletin prints in article saying people are getting use to the traffic. Bullshit. How about some regulation on the amount of vehicles allowed on the island. Look how other countries deal with these issues. If people had better access to a good education, a secure household its been proven they grow up to being better citizens and not so easily lured into drugs and alcohol to try and cope with the hopelessness of their lives. If we help our brothers and sisters we help ourselves.

Comments are closed.