State gives $13M in contracts, vows boost in shelters
Thirty-three homeless shelters across the islands are pledging to collectively add nearly 200 beds and to more than double the number of clients they place into permanent housing, Gov. David Ige announced Thursday.
Ige’s announcement outside Kakaako’s Family Assessment Center, the state’s newest shelter for homeless families with children, came in the wake of shelter providers’ concerns that new standards for sleeping space and toilets going into effect July 1 would force them to remove hundreds of beds. One of those providers, Lighthouse Outreach Center in Waipahu, with capacity for 100 people, cannot comply. It did not apply to renew its state contract and is expected to close.
But Ige said $13 million worth of new contracts awarded Thursday will actually increase the number of beds across the islands to 3,761 — up from 3,577 last year.
More important, Ige said, the shelters have proposed more than doubling the number of people they place into permanent housing — to 6,200 from about 3,000. “This really emphasizes our focus on collaborating with our partners, ensuring that we are more efficient and effective in the way we structure contracts,” Ige said outside the Family Assessment Center, which opened in the aftermath of the 2015 Kakaako homeless crisis, which peaked with more than 300 people living in encampments there. “It’s appropriate that we’re here in Kakaako to make this announcement,” Ige said.
Ige said 290 people from the original encampment have been placed into permanent housing. The Family Assessment Center this week alone found permanent homes for 10 people among three families.
“As you know,” Ige said, “in the last 12 months we’ve touched the lives of more than 5,000 members of our community and … placed more than 3,000 into permanent housing.”
The new shelter rules require more sleeping space and additional toilets to improve living conditions for homeless clients, but there could still be changes made to the new standards, said Scott Morishige, the state’s homelessness coordinator. In the meantime, Morishige said Department of Human Services officials will work with shelters to come up with common-sense ways of complying over the next several months.
“It really is about flexibility,” Morishige said.
“We were listening,” Ige said. “It really is that give-and-take. We know that we cannot defeat homelessness by ourselves. When we work together we can do great things. This contract will really help us move forward.” The changes mean that the state’s largest homeless shelter, the Institute for Human Services, will lose beds for 64 people.
But IHS was allowed to continue using floor mats at its men’s shelter housing severely mentally ill clients, who sleep each night on the dining room floor.
“We still have beds, that’s the good news,” IHS spokesman Kimo Carvalho said. “Basically, we can still accommodate 326 people across both those (men’s and women’s) shelters.” At the same time, IHS has added another 136 beds since 2014 at small, specialty shelters on Oahu aimed at medically fragile patients, veterans and people with psychiatric and substance problems. “There’s impact,” Carvalho said. “If beds are lost elsewhere, there’s more demand on our end that we have to meet.”
Late last year, as the new rules began to take shape, IHS was among the shelters that complained “we were being given a forced, unfunded mandate. No one came here and toured our shelter. No one came here and talked to us,” Carvalho said. “We definitely wanted to voice our concerns that there’s unintended consequences across the system. They did listen to us.”
“At the same time,” Carvalho said, “we completely support the state in their goals, which is to move more people into permanent housing. Stop looking at beds and ask providers, ‘How many people are you housing?’”
Gov. David Ige spoke during a news conference Thursday outside the Family Assessment Center in Kakaako. Ige, Department of Human Services Director Pankaj Bhanot and the state’s homelessness coordinator, Scott Morishige, discussed new shelter contracts that some shelter operators say will force them to eliminate beds.