Abercrombie ups the stakes on homelessness
Progress has been painfully slow in Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s high-profile battle to end homelessness in Hawai‘i, but give him credit for continuing to hack away at the problem and increase his personal accountability.
A state phone line set up for citizens to report homeless people in need of services drew some derision when few useful calls came in.
Some religious groups doggedly resisted the call of the governor and his homelessness czar Marc Alexander to stop feeding programs in the parks and instead move meal services to the shelters where the homeless can receive other help as well.
And at the halfway point of Abercrombie’s 90-day homelessness initiative, an unimpressive report card had just slightly more than 100 of Hawai‘i’s thousands of homeless helped off the streets.
Undaunted, the governor has now formally created a Hawai’i Interagency Council on Homelessness to bring together representatives from state, county and federal agencies and the private sector to coordinate social services for the homeless, increase transitional and permanent housing, pursue more federal funding and replicate successful initiatives in other states.
Abercrombie will chair the panel himself, putting his own neck on the line politically if the results don’t match the high expectations he’s set.
The latest move gets beyond the official urgency to do something to get the homeless off O‘ahu streets before the APEC meeting in November and reinforces the idea that solving the thorny problem of homelessness is more of a marathon than a sprint.
While the governor looks to the long term, state Reps. John Mizuno and Rida Cabanilla are calling their Human Services and Housing committees together Thursday to look specifically at issues surrounding APEC and the homeless.
A specific item on the agenda at 10 a.m. in Capitol conference room 329 is creating safe zones for the homeless around the island.
It’s always an adventure when Mizuno and Cabanilla get their heads together, but safe zones are worth considering on at least a temporary basis. We can’t keep telling the homeless where they can’t go without giving them someplace they can go.