Deal with the Homeless Crisis Now

I value responsibility in government.  That’s why I am so disappointed in the City’s failure to deal with the homeless crisis in Honolulu.

Under the mayor’s watch, homelessness has spiraled out of control and people no longer feel it is safe to enjoy many of our parks and beaches.  Millions have been spent on projects that have taken only a tiny handful of people off of our streets.  

Addressing the Homeless Crisis on Oahu

Homelessness has exploded into a crisis on Oahu over the past four years.  This homeless crisis is a human tragedy, a community concern and an economic disaster for our city.  The current administration has let this crisis fester for too long through a lack of strong leadership and planning.  I fully support public housing programs and I back the expansion of low-income housing. Still,  it’s important that we recognize that these programs alone are simply not enough to fix homelessness in Honolulu.

To address homelessness, as mayor I will take three key steps:

    1. Counseling – Just adopting a tough law enforcement stand without compassion will result in nothing more than a short-term fix to homelessness.  A large portion of homeless population suffer from serious mental illness or drug addiction.  Often both. As mayor I will work with private social service agencies to support their programs that have been effective in providing services for mental health, drug and job counseling services.  Currently, the City directs so much of its homeless resources into City programs run by the substandard City bureaucracy.  This is flat wrong.  In fact, much of the funding typically provided to non-profits via grants was usurped by the city, leading to effective programs fighting homelessness being forced to reduce services. Private non-profit agencies have consistently provided  far more effective counseling, more quickly and at a far lower cost than the City government, for many reasons, but particularly because these nonprofits are not burdened by government procurement and civil service regulations.

    3. Community – The big gap that exists in addressing homelessness is a failure to follow through with long-term planning.  If an individual in need is confronted and then receives appropriate counseling, too often there is a lack of a community to provide the support to keep that individual from returning to the streets.  That is why it is so important to connect individuals in need with appropriate communities, such as churches or veterans organizations, that continue to assist individuals, and hold them accountable to themselves and a broader community over the long term.  It is equally important to work with the business community to assist these individuals with obtaining long term employment.  The greatest social welfare program ever devised has been and continues to be a job.

    5. Confrontation – It is illegal to occupy and take over a city sidewalk, park or beach.  No one has a right to take private ownership of public property.  We need to enforce the law to introduce those who are homeless to appropriate social service programs and counselors to address this crisis unfolding across our island.  In many other American cities, this confrontation is accomplished during winter when cold weather forces the homeless into shelters and introduces them to social work professionals.  In Honolulu, our City government has to be more proactive to introduce the homeless to social welfare agencies.