A timely idea on the homeless

You never know where an excellent idea might come from, but I applaud Reps. Tom Brower, John Mizuno and Rida Cabanilla for their renewed push to create “safe zones” for homeless campers evicted from parks and beaches.

We can’t keep telling the homeless where they can’t be without providing someplace they can be.

According to the Star-Advertiser, Brower, Mizuno and Cabanilla figure an outdoor safe area with restrooms and lockers to store belongings would cost $100,000 — less if the state solicited private donations.

It’s a small fraction of what brick-and-mortar shelters cost, and would have a better chance of attracting the hardcore homeless who won’t go to shelters because they don’t like the rules and restrictions on their movements.

If there was a safe place for them to go to, we could crack down hard on campers in inappropriate places such as Kapiolani Park with a clear conscience.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann said he would support the idea if there were enforceable rules to prevent threats to the public health and safety. The safe zones could dovetail with the mayor’s newly announced plan to clean up homeless camping in public spaces.

Safe zones are by no means the long-term solution to homelessness, but they would ease some of the current tension and make it easier for agencies to help those in need while we work on the underlying causes.

A resolution to explore safe zones passed the House last session, but was opposed by the Lingle administration and didn’t get a hearing in the Senate.

“We have to do something,” Brower said. “This is a time to look at ideas because there are no easy solutions.”

Legislators scheduled a briefing on Hawaii’s “chronically homeless” at 10 a.m. Thursday in Capitol Conference Room 325.

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6 Comments on “A timely idea on the homeless”

  1. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Although this could be a shoft-term way of addressing the problem of where to put people after kicking them off the sidewalks and out of parks, it should not be used as a permanent, long-term answer to the lack of clean, safe, affordable housing.

    In fact, it reminds me of the “solution” someone currently running for a state senate seat came up with over a decade ago at a Neighbordhood Board meeting to address the expanding proliferation of all kinds of special needs housing for the elderly, mentally-retarded adults, recovering drug addicts, unwed pregnant women, and others considered to be unsuitable to live in a “normal” residential neighborhood: Find a chunk of land out in West O`ahu and build a large gated community to house those kinds of people from all over the island.

    When I thanked him for supporting tha creation of a ghetto, he was unable to comprehend how that assumption could be drawn since the residents would be able to come & go during selected hours of the day.

    Well, duhhh.

    Sorry, David, but what you describe above is no different.

  2. Scott Goold Says:

    Aloha David ~
    While I respect your position and admire your compassionate heart, this is not the right direction. We simply cannot encourage homelessness – particularly in Hawai’i.

    First, let’s say we open safe zones. The word will spread and homeless people from the mainland need only pay a one-way ticket here to find decent shelter. Ranks of homeless could explode.

    Tied to this, safe zones could be a wonderful way for young people to hang out here for years. Panhandling could explode. We might be creating tent cites for beach and surf bums.

    Second, people are homeless for a reason. Most in my opinion are mentally troubled. They don’t need a safe zone. They need help. How many vets are included in our homeless population? They’ve served our nation but we sweep them under the rug and into a tent city.

    Creating such zones allows us to ignore our duty to these heroes. We need to do the hard work to reintegrate them into society.

    Third, a significant portion of homeless simply prefer to drop out of society. Fine, this is their right (and choice) in a free, democratic society. Yet life demands that one work. We have obligations to society, to family and to each other.

    This group may hate the confines of an office (who doesn’t?); they may have difficulties working 8-5 (who doesn’t?); they may hate being told what to do (who doesn’t?).

    With Hawai’i’s weather and availability of fruits and seafood, it would be easy to set up camp and survive. Yet this will turn into an uncontrollable ghetto.

    These Human Beings need proper health and mental care; they need to become contributing members of society; they need training and business skills; they need homes and jobs.

    Safe zones may appear to be a solution but they are band-aids that mask the underlying problems of homelessness. We are shuffling these people out of sight and out of mind. We want to rid our streets of the visible problem because their presence rightfully tugs at our conscious and leaves us with guilt.

    Safe zones will simply increase the problem. There are few easy answers. There are no cheap solutions. Yet we must accept our social kuleana to help teach these people how to live kuleana for themselves.


  3. ccpp Says:

    A homeless “safe zone” sounds like a great idea.
    In fact a perfect spot for such a zone is the area in which the City proposes a 5-story building/ 5 -tory parking lot transit center on Alapai street that is right next to the Honolulu Police Station. Why waste hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on building a transit center to have City & State employees based in one building when all of the transit departments, EMS services, State transportation dept’s, etc are ALREADY interconnected with high speed Internet and network services (ie NGN project-Ask Atomic Monkey to explain this, etc), Cell phone, Blackberry, Iphone, landline phones, etc. Also given Mufi’s $10+ BILLION Aloha train to nowhere, SUPPOSEDLY no decrease in the Bus service even with hundreds of millions in funds from the Bus to the train; a 5 story parking garage is a complete waste of taxpayer monies and completely counterproductive when all of these employees should be using Mufi’s train and the Bus to commute to/from work Emergency situation? All these people don’t need to be physically together since they have already used millions in taxpayer monies (local, State & Federal) to buy the latest in wired and wireless communications for City and State first responders. Again, Atomic Monkey should attest to that. Lets spend just $100K to create this safe zone, add a few more port-a-potties and a basic non-permanent “tent” showers so that the Alapai property can be put to really good use. With the Alapai “safe zone” homeless people will no longer be allowed to “camp out” in Kapiolani park, Ala Moana park, & other parks/sidewalks/median islands. In order to stay in this safe zone, all adult male residents who use this facility MUST WORK by spending a few hours a day cleaning up the park and other areas as specified by a City parks crews (ie kind of like OCCC inmates on cleanup crew). Given this safe zone will be almost right next to the Honolulu police station, police can make a short jaunt through this shelter prior to starting their patrol throughout Honolulu. Campers must also allow social workers, mental health specialists, charity groups, etc. to come by and talk to them and check up on them. Anyone not abiding by the rules will be kicked out but NOT allowed to camp out anywhere else in Honolulu’s parks and streets.

    StarAdvertiser article on proposed transit center

  4. Forward Observer Says:

    A place where the downtrodden and homeless can go and be safe. How special. But the devil is always in the details. There have been camps for homeless before. They went by different names like “Weedpatch” “Hooverville” “Weinberg Village” and “Aala Park”. Several media reports have said that there are vacancies in shelters for the homeless but the homeless don’t want to stay in them. Some of those who regularly sleep in our parks and bus stop have said they don’t like the shelters because they have too many rules. But if you don’t have rules you will have anarchy. The question is how do you create an place that has few or no rules that will be safe and attractive to get those who would otherwise live in public places to relocate there? It may be simply cheaper and more effective to simply pay them to go elsewhere.

  5. waialuahaole Says:

    Why call them safe zones if they will be activated sans the safety rules that existing shelters currently enforce? (And the very same safety rules which cause many homeless to not desire to stay there.)

  6. Michael Says:

    People come to Hawaii to see grass shacks, so build them for the homeless. Homeless want to live native, then this would solve all problems, plus attract Tourist.

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