Re­vis­it­ing Hawai‘i’s Home­less Prob­lem

MidWeek (Hawaii) - - Front Page - JUST THOUGHTS Bob Jones

Con­tem­plate the re­al­iza­tion of your goal. Can you clearly pic­ture the res­o­lu­tion of the prob­lem? Can you see your­self suc­ceed­ing? If not, it’s a good idea to re­assess your com­mit­ment to the goal. — The Tiny Buddha Blog

Per­haps Mayor Kirk Cald­well and I need to “re­assess” how to han­dle O‘ahu’s home­less.

I’ve been a fan of hardand-fast evic­tion of pub­lic l and squat­ters. Cald­well likes the “com­pas­sion­ate” ap­proach by way of laws against sit­ting or ly­ing in cer­tain zones. He’s spend­ing $78,000 a year for home­less “sweep” crews and about $15,000 a week for stor­ing - ings. Law­mak­ers were asked — un­suc­cess­fully — for $2 mil­lion for spe­cial sher­iff’s deputies to evict the home­less from state lands.

The City con­sid­ers it great progress when a half-dozen home­less are put into hous­ing. That only leaves 7,214 to go!

They’re back un­der the Nimitz over­pass, back along Nimitz High­way, and now a huge home­less vil­lage in our Old Sta­dium Park.

As I pho­tographed the lat­ter last week, I won­dered if the mayor and I shouldn’t sur­ren­der and make that hardlyany-grass, scant­ily used park an au­tho­rized tent city with as­signed plots, a bath­room and a cen­tral out­reach cen­ter. They would be in­di­vid­ual tents — not those com­mu­nity ones the late Mayor Frank Fasi un­suc­cess­fully tried in other com­mu­nity.

I mean, why keep do­ing a sweep that has the peo­ple drift­ing back the next day? Isn’t there a clear mes­sage?

Los An­ge­les t r i ed our sys­tem and cleaned 16,500 home­less en­camp­ments, re­mov­ing more than 3,000 tons of trash. The cost so far is more than $14 mil­lion, with no ap­pre­cia­ble less­en­ing of the num­ber of en­camp­ments on the side­walks, in al­leys and along wa­ter­way banks.

Here, we’ve in­creased the num­ber of beds avail­able in shel­ters, but shel­ter isn’t what all our home­less want. No booze or drugs al­lowed. Can’t hang out there dur­ing the day.

We’re t r ying Hous­ing First, but that’s ap­pro­pri­ate only for a drop in the over - ple. Some have men­tal prob- lems or ad­dic­tions. Oth­ers are just weird.

And as fast as we help some, oth­ers be­come home­less be­cause of men­tal, job or rent-price is­sues.

The last home­less re­port I read dis­mally said, “Since the - za­tion Re­port was is­sued in 2006, the need for home­less ser­vices in the state has con­tin­ued to grow.”

That r e port , c over­ing “hid­den” (in the bushes) and at- risk peo­ple, con­cluded that there were dis­pro­por- tion­ately higher num­bers of Cau­casians, Hawai­ians and part-Hawai­ians, and mixed non-Hawai­ian peo­ple. Fig­ures were lower for Chi­nese, Ja­panese and Kore­ans. The at-risk group in­cluded a high num­ber of peo­ple who had been in Ha

So why do Cald­well and I and many oth­ers keep beat­ing our heads against the wall and deny­ing that a tent city ap­proach may be the most doable ap­proach?

It’s that old “do the same thing and ex­pect a dif­fer­ent out­come” syn­drome.

De­spite home­less “sweeps,” en­camp­ments con­tinue to per­sist while new ones like those pic­tured at Old Sta­dium Park emerge.

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