Pu‘uhonua: A Game Changer for Homelessness

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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.






  1. we shouldn't have to rely on government to fix the homeless problem.they can't.they never have and they never will.

  2. I can understand why people don't believe in the government to help. (straight from google) "Roosevelt believed it was the federal government`s duty to help the American people get through the bad times like the Dust Bowl. During the first three months of his presidency, a steady stream of bills were passed to relieve poverty, reduce unemployment and speed economic recovery. While these experimental programs did not end the Depression, the New Deal helped the American people immeasurably by taking care of their basic needs and giving them the dignity of work, and hope during trying times."

  3. People want a variety of things. The bigot sees the world in black and white. Justice will only come when we view the complete picture. Hatred and contempt for the homeless will bring no solutions. Compassion and understanding will. There will always be the addicted, mentally ill, and chronically homeless. Why condemn them all?

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