HONOLULU — The state Legislature is advancing efforts to end homelessness and will convene the Hawaii Homelessness Summit 2020 Tuesday at the State Capitol.
Rep. Joy A. San Buenaventura, chair of the House Committee on Human Services & Homelessness, and state Sen. Russell E. Ruderman, chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services, will lead the summit to evaluate the success of existing programs funded by the Legislature and to look ahead and embrace innovative solutions to homelessness.
Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation for homelessness on Dec. 14, 2018, and recently signed a seventh supplementary proclamation extending the emergency relief period to Feb. 14.
In 2018, the Legislature allotted $30 million for six “Ohana Zones” on public lands, with three sites on Oahu and one site each on Hawaii, Kauai and Maui. Each site must provide temporary housing along with social and health services that aim to transition homeless individuals to affordable housing.
Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami said Kauai’s Ohan Zone is planned for Pua Loke Park in Lihue, and could be open this year.
Ige began releasing funding for various Ohana Zone projects this past January. The Legislature has provided funding for housing-first programs since 2012, and in 2017 provided funding for the rapid re-housing program, family assessment centers, and homeless outreach and civil legal services.
“Our ultimate goal is to eradicate homelessness, not just manage it,” said San Buenaventura. “Data has shown a significant decrease in homeless families and children over the past few years. Helping those struggling with a disabling condition such as serious mental illness, substance-use disorder, or physical disability is especially challenging, but the Legislature is not giving up, and we are listening to and working with providers to do everything we possibly can,” she said.
“Homelessness is reduced in communities that focus on housing,” said Ruderman. “If we truly want to get people off the streets, we must provide them with a safe place as an alternative. With this summit we are asking questions and looking for solutions.”
The informational briefing will first look into the current state of homeless in Hawaii and ask if funding priorities for housing and services have been successful in reducing homelessness. The committees also want to know if the new resources such as Ohana Zones, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion and medical respites have demonstrated efficacy.
The committees will then discuss how we success is defined and measured in terms of ending homelessness, followed by more discussion on seeking to improve coordination with community partners.
A discussion on looking forward and embracing innovative solutions, such as public-private partnerships, and questions by committee members will end the hearing.
Guest speakers will include Sharon Woodward Graham, homeless programs coordinator, Kauai County Housing Agency.