A homeless solution or just another shuffle?

When former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann cleared the homeless out of Ala Moana Park during an extended series of torrential rains, it left a bad taste with many because of his perceived motive of getting them out of sight before his family festival at Magic Island.

The 90-day homelessness plan announced by Gov. Neil Abercrombie and his homelessness coordinator Marc Alexander seems to be drawing the same reaction in some quarters for similar reasons.

Because of its timing and strict focus on the Honolulu urban core, there’s a perception that the main motive is to get the homeless out of sight — especially in Waikiki — so they don’t sully the state’s image during the APEC meetings in November that will bring President Barack Obama, 20 other world leaders and 20,000 participants in all to Honolulu.

There are significant differences between the two situations; Hannemann made little provision to care for those he evicted while the current state effort includes ambitious plans to find shelter and treatment for the homeless being  cleared out.

The state’s plan seeks to zero in on the chronically homeless who have been on the streets for years, often have mental disorders or drug addictions and have been known to refuse help that inhibits their freedom to do as they please.

The governor threw down the gauntlet when he said, “We intend to see to it that public space stays public. Public space is not there for private use.”

If he and Alexander do it by more effectively coordinating services and finally finding ways to get these people some real help, they’ll earn major plaudits for contributing to a better Hawai‘i.

If they do it by just shuffling the hardcore homeless out of sight so the APEC muck-a-mucks don’t see our warts, they’ll have some explaining to do.

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10 Comments on “A homeless solution or just another shuffle?”

  1. Richard Gozinya Says:

    I’m still scratching my head over the economics. As I get it, the plan is to fund the Feral Citizen Round Up & Relocation Program by better utilizing existing funding of our many homeless programs.

    That doesn’t sound very convincing to me. All I have heard from our current program providers is crying for more kala, donation drives, pleas for funding,etc. I figured the existing programs were cash starved. Now, however, the Gov suggests there is enough money rattling around in current budgets to fund this big new initiative;it just needs to be better coordinated.

    If true,the existing programs were over-funded or woefully inefficient and should have been trimmed back long ago. If not true, then we need a new funding source, which since we’re broke, could be tough to find.

    It must be the old cynic in me but so far, this plan pretty well reeks of public relations over practical solutions.

  2. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    As the co-founder of the Windward Homeless Coalition which now includes the North Shore in its service area, what the Governor and his homeless coordinator have proposed will not work.

    Just do the numbers. There are nearly 10,000 households on the waiting lists for low-income affordable/workforce public housing. There are twice as many individuals on Hawaiian Homes lottery lists.
    There are long waiting lists for kupuna rentals as well.

    Assuming that the standard in Hawai`i is to pay one-third of the gross monthly income for rent and utilities, that would set the median average monthly rent limit for a family of four at about $1000 for a two-bedroom apartment. The median rent in the urban core is about $1,300.

    There nearly 20 times the number of people of all ages and physical/emotional conditions all across the state who do not have a bed to sleep in or a permanent roof over their heads as there are beds available IN TOTAL at emergency & transitional shelters.

    Where are these people in the urban core going to go if there is no room for them at the shelters?

    Guess what, David. They’ll come to the suburban and rural areas here in Windward O`ahu & along the North Shore where there is one small transitional shelter in Waimanalo which can provide services for perhaps as many as 30 people of which about half are children, one Family Promise network which can provide up to 14 people (although that figure can be adjusted for larger families) with food & chelter as they move from one church to the next on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, and one tent facility in the front yard of a church in Ko`olauloa which can provide space for maybe a dozen people.

    The West O`ahu facilities are filled as well, but at least there has been capital investments made in facilities there over the past decade.

    Here and along the North Shore? Zippo de nada.

    SigOth and I have been involved with the Family Promise program through our town-based helping church since the program began about six years ago and will be cooking dinner this Saturday at the host church for seven adults and nine children & teens. If you would like to join us, let me know. No work involved – just eat, talk story and play with the kids.

    Meanwhile, the Windward Homeless Coalition continues to work on its next outreach event during which we’ll bring in service providers plus a wide range of products as diverse as children’s books to toothpaste & condoms to information about or free venterinarian services. There will be a free food distribution event at the same time plus WHC will be serving a hot meal.

    Enabling? Yes, but what are our choices given the lack of temporary/transitional facilities and no affordable rentals?

    Are we enabling? Of course, but what else can we do if there is a lack of temporary shelter and not much to offer in the way of permanent housing.

    This is the principal social justice reason – as opposed to environmental – why I support Transit-Oriented Development which includes multi-family affordable/workfoce housing at the 20+ transit stations.

    If we do not build permanent housing, then let’s bring back multi-family poorhouses and place them in a gated community away from the rest of us.

  3. Doug Says:

    Mr. Gozinya, is the term “feral citizen” your idea of a joke? If so, it is not even a little bit funny.

    Nor, is it even original, judging by the Disqus comment threads at todays SA article.

  4. Richard Gozinya Says:

    Doug~
    I coined that description specifically because it DOES raise hackles.

    See, I’ve been around long enough to hear these folks called everything from hobos, bums, and tramps to our-oh-so-politically correct houseless people and of course,homeless. None of those names past or present is accurate because they are gross generalizations of a diverse and complex population.

    From time to time I choose to use the term “Feral Citizen” because it captures the essence of a certain subset of these folks. That’s probably what twists your panties even though you’ll admit it is accurate in some cases.

    ut I also use it for the opposite case – to point out the demeaning and (to me) un-American actions done in the name of silly government public relations stunts. My unvarnished opinion is that our Gov and minions have chosen to nominate some Hawaii residents as undesirables – pariahs that need to be herded somewhere out of sight of the “good people”. I don’t like that much. Remarking on the round up of Feral Citizens grabs attention.

    But, hey, my use of the term Feral Citizen(I was first, the others are copycats)achieved its purpose- it ticked you off. Hopefully it ticks off a lot of others too. Or maybe makes them laugh as that’s OK too if it cuts through wides spread apathy and despair which is where we are now.

    Mission accomplished. Now, suck it up tiger, I’ll still use the term. I don’t much like censorship,either.

  5. Doug Says:

    I’m not a censor, I’m just calling you out as a mean-spirited blowhard.

    Suck it up.

  6. Guido Sarducci Says:

    Abercrombie said they’re not feral cats–and they ARE citizens….

  7. Richard Gozinya Says:

    Careful there Guido,the next reply will be ALL CAPS to really rain down that internet thunder.

  8. Kolea Says:

    Doug and Richard,

    I kinda like Richard’s term. Feral Citizens.” I even appreciate he seems to alternate between using it to expose the cruelty in the public attitude towards the homeless AND himself indulging in a cruel view.

    I am troubled by Neil’s attitude toowars the homeless. It is quite obvious this “sweep” is timed to remove the “eyesore” of the homeless from our sidewalks so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of visiting APEC dignitaries. It is a kind of dishonesty.

    Perhaps it would be better if we were to be upfront that Hawaii, and the United States, has serious structural problems, including a housing crisis which expresses itsself in significant homelessness, as well as the financial ruin of many home “owners.”

    APEC is an assembly of the economic decisionmakers for a large part of the world’s economies. They will fly in First Class, get shuttled by limosines to and from events, stay at luxury hotels and make important decisions affecting the economic lives of a large portion of the world’s surface.

    But we gotta shield them from some of the consequences of neo-liberal economic policies?

    If have seen the slums of Mexico City and Manila. This “economic development” being promoted by APEC has robbed people of their livelihoods all over the globe. As the US gets more “integrated” into the global economy and as jobs shift to low-wage countries, our economy slumps, income inequality grows and the US takes on more characteristics of Third World countries.

    Why should we hide the downside of these policies from those involved in making them? Not only is the sweep of the homeless inhumane, it is also DEEPLY intellectually dishonest.

  9. Doug Says:

    Right on, Kolea.

  10. hugh clark Says:

    We spent three days lst month in Singapore, a city state transformed from slums in the 1960s to a modern financial capital and high tech preserve.

    I was told there are no beggers (I saw none) or street people (none seemed present) and I spotted close to zero graffiti. That mixed society of Chinese, East Indians, Malaysians and combos therefore seemed to have found an answer.


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