Target: Homelessness

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Darrell Major talks about the challenges of finding a place to stay Tuesday on the lawn of the Historic County Building.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    An individual naps in the sun Tuesday on the lawn of the Historic County Building.

LIHUE — Darrell Major has been sleeping on the streets of Lihue for several months while he looks for a roof to go over his head.

The former Californian said he’s been living on Kauai for 20 years and only knows of two places to find advertisements for rentals — the newspaper and Craigslist.

“I wish someone would tell me (about other resources),” Major said.

Major is confident he’ll be able to find the ideal one- or two-bedroom unit for between $1,000 and $1,500 a month plus utilities once his girlfriend returns from the Mainland in a few days.

“It’ll be no problem if I can find something available,” he said.

It’s a story echoed across the state, and officials acknowledged Tuesday that connecting houseless or at-risk people with the services they need is paramount to solving Hawaii’s homeless crisis.

“Step one would be to figure out what resources are out there, and for many people they don’t know where the resources are,” said state Rep. Andria Tupola at a homeless briefing hosted by the state House Health and Human Services Committee.

The issue

January 2017’s Point in Time Count revealed Hawaii has 7,220 homeless people, which places the state with the highest number per capita of homeless people in the nation.

At the same time, the Point in Time data shows a 9 percent decrease statewide, and that’s the first decrease seen in eight years, according to Scott Morishige, homeless coordinator for Gov. David Ige.

“Look at what’s happening with the rest of the country,” he said. “California saw an increase, we saw a decrease. We’re making progress.”

Morishige continued: “We’re implementing systemic changes across multiple systems. There’s no one cause, no one reason, and no one agency responsible.”

In a study released Tuesday by Aloha United Way, a population was defined called the Alice population, those that are above poverty level but below a level of self-sufficiency.

The results of the survey showed that 48 percent of the people in Hawaii are within the Alice population — or below. Kauai had the lowest number, at 43 percent.

“When a family is in this Alice population and they suffer a minor financial crisis, they have nothing to fall back on and in many cases they wind up becoming homeless,” said Norm Baker of Aloha United Way.

He continued: “We believe a homeless diversion and prevention program needs to be part of the effort.”

Working together

A multi-pronged approach is needed to address the homeless crisis, officials and experts said, and that means a combination of government efforts, nonprofit-led programs and creative thinking.

On Kauai, services come through places like the Family Life Center, Kauai Economic Opportunity and Catholic Charities Hawaii, which recently added two new programs and changed locations.

Both programs have a low-barrier approach in which staff members work with clients to get them into houses, and then provide “wrap-around” services after clients are securely housed, according to Jillian Okamoto, who oversees CCH’s housing programs statewide.

Those programs are the Housing First program and the Rapid Rehousing program.

“Where they differ is at the clientele base,” Okamoto said. “Housing First is those folks who are chronically homeless and have mental-health or substance-abuse disorders, the high-risk people on the street.”

The Rapid Rehousing program is aimed at families and individuals who are in shelters, are living unsheltered, or are at risk of becoming homeless.

Those who are interested in taking part in programs with CCH have to go through a screening process, and those who ask for help at the Kauai CCH office will get it.

“Our staff are trained in triaging someone’s situation,” Okamoto said. “Whether or not we can assist them, we see which programs they need.”

CCH is one of dozens of nonprofits, government organizations, law enforcement, health and social workers, and faith-based organizations that are mobilizing to help lower the number of homeless people in Hawaii.

A Medicaid waiver amendment is on the table, for instance, that would provide tenancy support services for the chronically homeless — which means helping with the housing search, housing support plans and moving.

In addition, the tenancy support services would offer training in tenant responsibilities, how to be a good neighbor, and landlord dispute resolution.

“Many of these services are being provided today, but aren’t being paid for by Medicaid funds,” said Judy Mohr Peterson, division Med-QUEST division administrator for the state Department of Human Services.

She continued: “We need to have the provision of services themselves, we need to share data and information, and we need to make sure that it’s coordinated.”

Mohr Peterson said the request for the Medicaid waiver is resting with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) — the federal regulatory body for Medicare and Medicaid — and they’re hoping for a reply to their request.

Dr. Glenn Pang, gastroenterology specialist on Oahu, has partnered with other healthcare workers, mental-health workers and interested individuals to address homelessness.

“We approach communities and ask them what they want, and it’s a comprehensive plan,” Pang said. “We’re project-based on our plans and we’re handling things project by project helping the homeless.”

He continued: “I want to develop microhomes and little homes that people can live in.”

While efforts of individuals and organizations were highlighted at the Tuesday House Health and Human Services Committee’s briefing, the need to work together was the main point.

“I’m asking for a paradigm shift,” said Rep. John Mizuno, committee chair. “We need to work together and collaborate and see if we can significantly address this; break down the silos.”

14 Comments
  1. larry January 10, 2018 5:37 am Reply

    its the fault of the greedy hoarders
    there are places out there


  2. billyjoebob January 10, 2018 6:02 am Reply

    I just can’t believe people are depending so heavily on the government to find and supply housing.


  3. gordon oswald January 10, 2018 9:32 am Reply

    It’s too bad that homelessness is hitting quality people so hard! That being said, it’s a reality and Hawaii is too expensive for the homeless to have any chance of recovery? The best approach, since most of the homeless come from the mainland and especially California, is to offer them a one way ticket to California where they create homeless citizens by the thousands on purpose, and offer many wonderful benefits! They want you to be successful!


  4. Sandy January 10, 2018 10:03 am Reply

    If this guy from California has been homeless for 20 years, he hasn’t tried. There are so many jobs here, and he can share a room in a house. There are ways to get off the streets. All of the islands have been too easy on the homeless and that is why there is such a big population here. (the biggest in the US) Couple that with the great weather here, and the problem just gets bigger. Arrest these people and put them in jail for loitering and ruining property that is not theirs. This has become a gross problem (public bathrooms are disgusting and many parks are unusable) Why can they get away with things the average citizen can’t?


  5. HaloHalo January 10, 2018 2:05 pm Reply

    Someone once commented on one of these homeless stories, find out the last place these people filed taxes and send them back there, GREAT IDEA! I’m sorry but SO MANY of these homeless people are people I have never seen in my life and definitely don’t act or look local.

    Not trying to be mean, but you have all the time in the world to go house hunting. It’s not anyone else’s responsibility except your own. and if you can’t find a house on your own, how are you going to pay bills or rent on your own? How are you going to find furniture or household goods or even be responsible enough to clean it on your own?

    It is extremely difficult to trust people as a homeowner. A home owner will only put up with so many ruined carpets, holes in walls and bad neighbor reports until they have had enough.

    Good luck Buddy, get off your okole and go look for a house and a job!


  6. Frequent visitor January 10, 2018 5:27 pm Reply

    The first thing I notice is he’s not homeless, he’s from California. You cant hitchhike 1000 miles to a tropical paradise and call yourself homeless. Home is where you choose to be, choose responsibly. There are many cheaper places to live in even in California. Dont ask society to be responsible for choices you cannot support. Haole, go home.


  7. Kresta Painter January 10, 2018 9:24 pm Reply

    I don’t know this guy’s entire story… and it doesn’t really matter because but let’s be honest Kauai… this is more about the fact there is a shortage of affordable housing. END OF STORY.


  8. J January 11, 2018 3:14 am Reply

    The report said he has been homeless several months not twenty years, and yes there is a real problem just like they say its just not your problem.


  9. Mary Jane January 11, 2018 7:24 am Reply

    Wow you really need to get a clue. Apparently you must not know that the majority of people on the street and or beaches are families from here. There are jobs but there is a chronic problem of not paying people on time or at all. It is not a crime to not have a home or sleep. Yes there are restrooms are a mess but there are workers paid to do the jobandpaid well they need to do their jobs no matter who uses the public restroom. The people that should be arrested are the people stealing the money that is supposed to help. And there is all kinds of discrimination when looking for a place as well. A locall young mom I know got her section 8 voucher but can’t find a place to rent to her. One person said she had to many children 2 kids is not to many. 3And the man in the article was homeless for a few months he has lived here for 20 years. Maybe you should really read before making rude hateful comments


  10. Mary Jane January 11, 2018 7:40 am Reply

    If you have faith on Jesus then you know that all this hate towards the poor is wrong. Having anger at people for what they don’t have is ridiculous. The last comment was a reply to Sandy. There are more Hawaiian people in California than Californians in Hawaii you never see signs saying go home either.


  11. Hard Working January 11, 2018 6:47 pm Reply

    Minimum wage is only increasing to $10.10. That’s roughly $1750 a month before taxes. Studios are renting for $1000 a month. Looks to me like raising minimum wage higher would be a good start. Or maybe government providing tax breaks for landlords offering lower rents or some kind of government housing development plan that’s focused on local housing for low income folks. Something’s gotta give, after all, someone needs to harvest crops, cashier, serve meals, cook and clean..


    1. Frequent visitor January 12, 2018 12:30 pm Reply

      @ HardWorking: We just raised our mw to $14.00, a buck more next year, and despite the howls of outrage about that everything else our gov did, i’ll never raise my fist to giving the poorest workers more. They work, they give, or would, they participate in a society, those who enjoy the benefit, give back some. But rents are extraordinarily high in Hawaii, and there a lot of wrong reasons for that.


  12. Frequent visitor January 12, 2018 1:44 pm Reply

    The cost of living is very high there, particularly residential rents and mortgages. oddly, Hawaii residential property taxes are very low, silly low, lowest in the USA, possibly lowest in the Western hemisphere. Like only Amazon tribesman pay less property tax than some of those million dollar villas owned by foreign investors, who sit empty half the year as vacation sandboxes, or exist entirely on the quiet rental market, which is huge there btw. Hawaii dosent have the room, outsiders are taking it as fast is its parceled, Why not? its cheap to own, returns are very high. The greatest loser of housing has been the native Hawaiian people in masses, who lost everything else, and live in quiet indignity, and 6 to 8 in 4 room tin shacks, away from the 5-Star world where you’d get your picture taken by writers. So, I have less sympathy for transient opportunists from California or anywhere else. Meanwhile, an empty vacation villa in Hawaii @.31% pays less property tax or 1/6 of a home in Ohio. That’s not good for Hawaiians, or good business for the most desirable piece of real estate in the Pacific.


  13. Lala January 14, 2018 4:56 pm Reply

    I was able to find housing before I moved to Kauai from Massachusetts for $1,300/month including utilities because I had verified on island employment . Neither subject of article or girlfriend could do the same?


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