Homeless plan or security sweep?

Stories in the local media about Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s 90-day homeless plan have mentioned the timing in relation to the November APEC conference, but have allowed for the possibility of loftier goals than removing the homeless from the view plane of Barack Obama and other world leaders.

Not so most of the stories circulating in the mainland media. The AP story that ran in the Washington Post and other major media laid the homelessness initiative directly at the doorstep of APEC:

HONOLULU — The laid-back tropical paradise seen in postcards and tourists’ photos of Hawaii has a less pleasant flipside: homeless people sleeping in tents near Waikiki Beach, men splayed out next to public bathrooms, drug addicts and drunks loitering at an oceanside park.

With President Barack Obama hosting a major Asia-Pacific economic summit in Honolulu in November — one that will draw dozens of heads of state and focus international attention on the tourist mecca — state leaders have begun pressing for solutions to solve a homelessness problem that’s as deeply entrenched in Hawaii as nearly anywhere in the country.

Abercrombie was quoted as saying it’s a “happy coincidence” that the plan will move many of the homeless out of Waikiki and the main city corridor before APEC.

Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz mentioned a moral obligation to help the homeless, but admitted APEC is a “handy deadline” to show some progress.

Mayor Peter Carlisle said the added police and security forces for the conference will be keeping a special eye on the homeless.

“Some of them are violent, some of them are mentally ill, some are so intoxicated you can’t roust ‘em,” he said. “And that’s something we simply just can’t tolerate during this particular period of time.”

The question is whether it’s motivation that really matters or results.

If the homeless are moved only temporarily out of Waikiki and the central city — or pushed to other locations where they’re just a problem for someone else — the program will be a disgrace by any measure.

But if the sweep finds actual solutions and services for a fair number of homeless and gets them into better situations for themselves and the community, do we really care what motivated the timing?

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14 Comments on “Homeless plan or security sweep?”

  1. Richard Gozinya Says:

    Please refer to this program by its proper name:

    Unfunded Feral Citizen Round-Up Program

    UFCRUP – pronounced “Oof…Crap!”

    The official slogan:

    “Herd ’em up and head ’em out….yeeeehah!”

  2. Jim Loomis Says:

    A non-contribution.

    My dear mother often said, “If you can’t say something nice, it’s better to say nothing at all.”

  3. David Says:

    The Demorepublicratans have spent many many decades creating an economy where housing and the cost of living are high while keeping wages low. This is a big reason why we have so many homeless here. Since they created the problem, I suppose this is their solution to it: basically, jail the homeless for 90 days, then dump them back onto the streets.

    For real change in Hawaii, vote NO INCUMBENTS!

  4. Kolea Says:

    David the Commenter,

    I’m not sure what value there is in blaming the “Demorepublicratans” and blindly voting against all incumbents. Perhaps you think that “sends a message”?

    Since I am more than a little obtuse– ask anybody– perhaps you can send me a more nuanced message. Our economic system makes housing extremely expensive while, as you say, “keeping wages low.”

    I realize “THEY’ (the “Demorepublicratans”) have all the power. But if YOU have ideas on how to lower the cost of housing and raise wages in Hawaii, what would you suggest? What kind of changes would you like to see in terms of “process” in order to get the results you favor?

    Clearly elected officials cannot simply dictate the cost of housing nor wage levels. So what would you have them do? What would you do?

    When I go into the polling place next year, aren’t there some incumbents who have supported ideas similar to your (as yet unstated) ideas and shouldn’t we keep THOSE incumbents? Or if I stick to your strict “vote against all incumbents” line, which challengers should I support? Which ideas should I try to find among their thoughts to solve the problems which concern you?

    If the current incumbents are ignoring available solutions you favor, let’s identify those solutions and get people elected who support them. By reducing your “strategy” to “vote the incumbents out,” you are actually helping those in office to disempower you.

    But maybe you prefer NOT to have any effective say in what happens here? More better to kvetch against whomever happens to have gotten elected, regardless of what they stand for. Then next election, we can vote them out and install a new bunch of people, whose ideas we don’t care to evaluate either.

  5. Kolea Says:

    David the Blogger,

    I have just gone back to the last post you wrote on the same subject a few weeks ago and don’t see much difference. In the last column, you seemed a bit more hopeful that the administration would make a stronger effort to provide social services to those in the greatest need. This time, I sense the national press reports have caused you to wonder if you were being a bit too optimistic?

    In this country or most others, under conservatives or liberals, most cities will round up the homeless and sweep them out of sight during a major event like APEC. Actually, I think APEC is pretty small compared to an Olympics, for example. Lingle made some attempt to provide transitional housing for the homeless, perhaps with some effort to connect them with social service agencies. I doubt the Abercrombie-Schatz-Alexander troika will be anymore successful. It is very clear their number one concern is to hide the poverty which afflicts Hawaii in order to create a false impression with the visiting dignitaries and media.

    They would undoubtedly HELP the homeless in a more substantial way IF they “had the money” to do so. But our current social agencies are even “more broke” than under Lingle. And homelessness is rooted in some pretty fundamental features of our economic system: housing as an investment rather than for its “use value, structural unemployment and structural low wages, the “de-institutionalization” movement which has put a lot of mentally ill people out onto the streets, the collapse of “public housing” as a solution to high housing costs, the lack of construction of rental housing, etc..

    Not only can those fundamental problems not be “fixed” in the 90 day window the state is following, but once APEC is over, other priorities will emerge, many of which will work AGAINST resolving the cause(s) of homelessness.

  6. David Shapiro Says:

    Nope, no change in my basic view. Just thought the difference between what we see and what those viewing us from afar see was interesting.

  7. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    As someone who works on a daily basis to provide services for homeless and at- risk families & older women and who also spends at least 10 hours each week dealing with policy-makers and bureaucrats, I believe that this plan does have some goals worthy of our support – provided that the rest of us are willing to invest in the infrastructure to develop permanent solutions over the next three to eight years.

    If the majority of people on O`ahu do not want to make these investments, then life will get worse for all of us.

    As I pointed out in yesterday’s discussion about transit and in an earlier post on homelessness, part of the benefits coming out of transit-oriented development will be enough affordable/workforce housing units built through public-private partnerships over the next decade to significantly increase the housing stock, white- and green-vollar employment opportunities, and educational options plus setting up Housing First services for a majority of the homeless and at-risk population in these areas to help them transition into being productive members of our society.

    These long-term benefits would then allow service providers to focus their efforts on the intransigent & complex issues which dominate the lives of about 30% of the homeless – mental & physical illness,age, serious criminal records, domestic violence, and substance abuse – mostly alcohol.

    Without these dedicated clusters of land where stations would be built along with the surrounding areas for housing, economic and educational opportunities, there will be virtually no way of addressing these long-term issues in any humane way.

    Meanwhile, the decision to uproot the homeless in the urban areas and to “help” them to move them to places like Waimanalo and Haleiwa or up in mountains & into the valleys will address the homelessness issue through the end of November.

    However, because of zoning laws which restrict mixed-use housing in most areas of O`ahu and NIMBY attitudes about special needs housing anywhere, these folks will be back in the urban core in time for a Thanksgiving dinner at the Blaisdell.

    Our realistic long-term choices if transit is canceled would be to criminalize homelessness or to set up the 21st century version of Kalaupapa.

    One last quick note – when SigOth and I moved into the house we’ve been renting since June 1, 1998, its tax assessment was slightly over $100,000. Currently, houses in similar condition on the market within a four-block area range from $525,000 to $700,000.

    What caused that jump? A high demand for housing in the area/region and virtually no increase in affordable housing supply. The politicians didn’t directly quintuple the cost in 13 years – private investors did in response to the demand.

    In the urban core, the affordable housing supply cannot meet the demand which either forces people to continue to rent or to move out to West and Central O`ahu and commute into town to work.

    Given a 50% anticipated population increase on O`ahu over the next decade or so in addition to the current demand, how else will we address these housing needs except to increase the supply.

    NOTE: When I originally did research on the supply/demand issue here on O`ahu back in 2006, nearly 48% of its population were renters. That number has fallen to about 45%, but that’s still fairly significant.

  8. el guapo Says:

    The simple fact is – get TOO MANY PEOPLE on Oahu. Too many people to build our way out of the problem, so in simple economics, if no can reduce supply, reduce demand – gotta limit population on this island, somehow, someway. Is that unconstitutional? Did the founding fathers ever think that part of the U.S.A. would be on a little rock in the middle of the ocean?

  9. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    el guapo:

    There are four ways to reduce the population here on O`ahu – make Neighbor Island living more attractive than living on O`ahu; secede O`ahu from the State of Hawai`i and then secede from the United States of America; kill people either through euthanasia or by wholesale slaughter; drive up the cost of living through higher taxes on working class folks, pay low wages & limited employment to make O`ahu attractive only to the extremely rich who don’t have to go to work every day

    Which do you prefe?

  10. el guapo Says:

    Doc, we are already subject to low wages and limited employment and the neighbor islands are already attractive to the extremely rich. As time goes on, every island will eventually face the same resource problem as Oahu. As I said, the founding fathers never envisioned a situation like this so don’t give me any secession or unconstitutional arguments. The only way to slow it down or stop it is to limit population, and I mainly refer to migration to Oahu. The elephant is in the room and can’t be ignored.

    Simply put, we live on an ISLAND. Hawaii Housing Authority already has 10,000 on their waiting list for affordable housing. I would contend that the demand on HHA would be much higher than 10,000 if not for all those who continue to live with relatives or double and triple up because of the housing costs and are not actively seeking housing. A simple question: where do we build 25,000 affordable housing units, and how?

  11. Kolea Says:

    el guapo,

    How do you propose to limit migration or “population” on Oahu? Neither the state nor the city has the legal right to keep US citizens from settling here. Should we wish to limit the number of residents, we could limit building permits and restrict housing. That would create pressures which would undoubtedly dampen in-migration and speed up out-migration.

    But among the results of such a policy would be an even greater increase in the price of available housing. (Setting aside the deflationary effect of the lingering recession). IN effect, we would have to make Oahu a miserable place for low-income people to live, forcing them out to the mainland in search of lower housing costs and higher wages.

    What I am describing sounds pretty close to what is already happening, not as the result of a conscious population control policy, but by the logic of the housing market. Developers strive to limit the amount of new housing released to the market in order to ensure they can get a decent price. An oversupply of new homes drives down the prices, reducing profits and lowering incentives for developers to build more housing.

    The market, left to its own incentives, will NEVER provide new affordable housing for middle or low-income people in Hawaii. This is especially true as Hawaii becomes evermore “integrated into the world economy.” more precisely for the purposes of this discussion, “integrated into the world housing market.” Low cost air transportation, the revolution in telecommunications, and the triumph of neo-liberal economic policies worldwide has made Hawaii a very realistic option as a part-time residence for wealthy people all over the globe. And members of the world economic elite, having grown disproportionately wealthy in recent decades, are buying into Hawaii’s real estate market at an increasing rate.

    Why would a developer build housing for middle-income employees when there is so much more money to be made selling to affluent retirees from the mainland or wealthy people from around the world.

    As Spock would say, “Does not compute.”

    So the only population control we will see in Hawaii will come from the marketplace pricing local residents out and welcoming those with fat wallets. And the net effect of those pressures will still be a population increase.

    Some of the homeless are local people trying to hold on to their connection with their homeland, despite these market pressures. Some are people who have gone lolo, but do not receive mental health services. Some are people from the mainland who thought, perhaps correctly, that being homeless in Hawaii is less painful than being homeless back in America.

    The most important government policy now is to hide these people away from public view so as not to embarrass ourselves in front of our distinguish guests arriving for APEC. Don’t want them to think American-style free market development is incapable of taking care of our people. Might turn the Chinese into Marxists again. And what would happen to the global economy then?

    It is expected that the arrival of 20,000 members of the Asia Pacific economic elite will result in significant sales in the high-end condos. SUrely some of that will “trickle down” on the rest of us?

    Let the Unfunded Feral Citizen Round-Up Program begin.

  12. shaftalley Says:

    homelessness is a problem because of massive government intervention.

  13. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Massive government intervention in what areas?

    Domestic violence?
    Mental and physical illnesses?
    Low wages and fringe benefits for non-union workers?
    Lack of access to Legal Aid?
    Draconian laws criminalizing personal decisions about drugs & alcohol.?
    Lack of public educational opportunities?
    Failure to fund public capital projects?
    Regressive tax system which benefits the wealthy?
    Lack of affordable public housing?

    Based upon my experiences over the years, generally speaking, the Government, has cast a blind eye towards the broad range of issues attached to homelessness with the (tied) #1 being limited access to government social services and affordable housing.

  14. el guapo Says:

    The fire marshall can legally limit the number of people in a room or building. Why can’t we limit the number of people who can safely live on an island? Same theory.

    If we don’t think of something, Kolea is correct in that Oahu will be a miserable place for people to live, only it would be miserable for everyone, not just the low-income families. The lack of water or civil unrest are my leading bets to drive everyone away.

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