State gives $13M in con­tracts, vows boost in shelters

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By Dan Nakaso

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.

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