Posted tagged ‘homelessness’

A timely idea on the homeless

July 15, 2010

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.

Hannemann-Lingle homeless tango gets tiresome

July 1, 2010

Continuing with homelessness, it was disappointing to see Mayor Mufi Hannemann and the Lingle administration  wasting precious energy needed to solve this problem with more bickering over who deserves credit and who deserves blame.

The mayor held a well-attended forum on homelessness this week, offending Lingle’s people who thought it was a campaign stunt aimed at obscuring what they see as a callous disregard for the homeless by Hannemann.

You can read the he said/she said here if you care to, but suffice it to say that both sides need to roll up their sleeves more before there’s any political boasting to be done about solving homelessness in Hawai’i.

Hannemann got off to a bad start  in 2006 when he cruelly and abruptly kicked 200 homeless out of Ala Moana Park with no place else to go to keep them from blighting a centennial bash he planned at Magic Island.

When many of them showed up at city hall to protest, wrongful arrests were made and the city ultimately had to pay $65,250 in settlements.

Once in damage-control mode, Hannemann ridiculously claimed that he booted the homeless from Ala Moana to force the state into action to help them.

To his credit, Hannemann learned from the mistake and in subsequent homeless evictions from Waianae Coast beaches, the city gave ample notice and did a better job of coordinating with social service agencies to help those displaced.

But his continuing claims that homelessness is the state’s problem when 80 percent of the state’s homeless are in his city is unproductive and an argument that few other U.S. mayors would try to get away with.

Lingle didn’t need any prodding from Hannemann’s Ala Moana fiasco to get busy on homelessness; she had already bought heavily into the Bush administration’s ambitious plan to end homelessness in a decade.

The governor built short-term shelters and longer-term housing for the homeless in Kakaako, Waianae and Kalaeloa, but ending homelessness proved more challenging than she expected and the effort seemed to run out of gas in the recession.

At this point, the governor, mayor and Legislature all seem to have the best of intentions for the homeless, but what’s frustrating is the constant political jousting and the potential progress that’s been lost because of their failure to work together.

These are state legislators?

June 30, 2010

I remember covering O’ahu District Court in the late 1960s when haole hippies brought in on marijuana busts would be offered an opportunity by the judge to have charges dropped if they got on a plane back to the Mainland by midnight.

It’s like deja vu all over again with the move in the Legislature led by Reps. John Mizuno and Rida Cabanilla to establish a  $100,000 “family reunification” fund to give homeless people from the Mainland one-way tickets back to where they came from.

The measure failed in the Legislature last session, but Mizuno and Cabanilla were grandstanding on its behalf this week, with Mizuno putting up $100 to help send a homeless man back to Seattle and urging others to contribute to the cause.

John Fox, director of the Seattle Displacement Coalition, was incredulous that Hawai’i is trying to export its homeless, according to a story in the Star-Advertiser by Dan Nakaso.

“You hear the occasional story of some small reactionary community somewhere wanting to put homeless people on buses,” Fox said. “But I’ve never met or run into any homeless person or service provider who has assumed something like this has actually happened before.”

Of Mizuno and Cabanilla, he said,  “These are state legislators?”

There might be legitimate cases where social service providers would feel the best way to help a homeless person is to help him get home, but to make it official state policy to dump our homeless elsewhere would be another national disgrace for Hawai’i.

No doubt there are vagrants from the Mainland who come here to take advantage of our social services and balmy weather, but it’s a myth that they make up a substantial number of our more than 4,000 homeless on O’ahu, the vast majority of whom are homegrown.

Focusing so much attention on the relatively small number of homeless who are recent Mainland transplants distracts from the real challenge of finding ways to help local citizens who are often physically or mentally ill, down on their luck or drug-addicted.

I have further thoughts on homelessness in my column in today’s Star-Advertiser: “It’s time to focus on finding where the homeless can live.”

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