Pine: Homeless Solutions for Leeward Oahu
News Release from Councilmember Kymberly Marcos Pine July 29, 2015
This week, Governor David Ige and Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced a leadership team focused on managing Oahu's homeless situation. I applaud this action. The homeless issue is extremely complex mixing poverty, mental illness, substance abuse, crime, and a lack of affordable housing. We need every leader working together and sharing resources to effectively manage this problem.
My position on the homeless issue has remained unchanged since I first was elected to the council. The sit-lie bills, while well intended, only move the homeless from one community to the next causing the homeless to become more agitated, and as we have seen, more violent.
The true solution to this problem is for government to provide more affordable living spaces whether its temporary housing such as shelters, affordable rentals or small houses as proposed for Sand Island or for my district. Funding must also be increased for mental health providers and social workers who best know how to deal with this population. Comprehensive job training and life-skill training must also be part of the solution.
Oahu's 2015 Homeless Point-in-Time Count revealed that almost a quarter of our island's unsheltered homeless are in our district.
When Waikiki businesses leaders and residents came to testify in favor of the first sit-lie ban they said increased assaults on tourists and other forms of crime occurring were the reasons the ban should be passed. All of these acts were already illegal, which is why I believed the solution was to increase police presence in all problem areas, weed out the criminal element of this population, leaving social workers with a better ability to assist those whose need help but were plagued by these negative influences.
Prior to the first sit-lie bill passing, the criminal element of the homeless population was concentrated in business areas. Since the sit-lie bans that I opposed only apply to business areas, this criminal element is now living on the slopes of Diamond Head, Kaimuki and Moilili, close to peoples' homes and in Kakaako where they are now mixed in with families and children, and as we have seen - are influencing our youth who are mimicking these criminal behaviors to survive.
As the only elected official who has worked in a homeless shelter, I can attest that this is very hard work. Many social workers often put their life at risk out in the field, have to deal with very serious mental health issues and their take home pay is just over $20,000 after taxes. To make matters worse, funding for homeless programs vary from year to year so they are never sure if they will have a job the next year. Keeping experienced persons in this line of work in Hawaii is very difficult under the current circumstances, and must remain a top priority.
I am excited that all government agencies and key leaders are now all working together to address homelessness on Oahu. Pointing fingers and talking is easy and only hurts all residents - houseless or not. The time is right to roll up our sleeves and just get things done.