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MAYOR: EFFORTS TO ADDRESS HOMELESSNESS SHOW PROGRESS

 

(Wed., July 14, 2010)—Mayor Mufi Hannemann today provided an update regarding issues discussed at the city’s recent Forum on Homelessness and announced new proposals for addressing chronic homelessness linked to mental illness, and illegal camping and related problems on city property.

 

            “We’ve worked very hard to improve the quality of life for everyone in Honolulu, and this effort will continue after I leave office,” Hannemann said. “We are certainly in a better place today in terms of arriving at solutions than ever before. It takes all of us, the state, city and the community, coming together.”

 

            The City’s Forum on Homelessness, held on June 29 at the Mission Memorial Auditorium, was very successful in identifying priorities and strengthening relationships among government and service providers.

 

Based on the 2010 “Point In Time Count,” homelessness has slightly increased on Oahu, though not as significantly as might be expected, given the current state of the economy. This is largely due to the City’s Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program, Hannemann said.

 

There are, however, a growing number of people who are chronically homeless, and services for this group are limited. Hawaii has a law—which has never been used—that allows involuntary outpatient treatment via the civil court system for people with severe mental disorders. The city plans to pursue a test case to help establish a system whereby individuals who are chronically homeless and severely mentally ill may be assisted via this involuntary outpatient treatment law.

 

The city also still hopes to help address chronic homelessness by constructing new supportive housing on River Street or another location with community support.  Hannemann thanked the City Council for including in this year’s city budget new money to keep the project alive, and he noted that the state has also approved money for a “Housing First” project. If the River Street location is not viable, the will work with the state and community to identify another location, Hannemann said.

 

The City is also open to the concept of a “safe zone” for homeless campers in a location with community support. Such a zone would allow long-term camping and provide basic sanitation and safety services. The city is prepared to work with the state and community to identify a potential location and other details.

 

To ensure the success of a safe zone, we suggest that such a location:

 

·        Must be safe, and therefore must have rules;

·        Must have staffing/security to ensure enforcement of rules;

·        Must have access to sanitation facilities;

·        Must forbid drugs and alcohol;

·        Should welcome homeless people with pets;

·        Would likely need to charge fees to offset operating costs; and

·        Should be operated by a private service provider or entity.

 

Hannemann said the administration would also ask the City Council to approve two new bills that would prohibit unlawful camping on all public property, including sidewalks and medial strips; and would establish a procedure for the removal and disposition of personal property stored illegally in public spaces.

 

These bills do not target the homeless, but would make it clear that no one may camp or store belongings for long periods of time on sidewalks or other public areas.

 

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Media contact: Bill Brennan, Mayor’s Office, 768-6928