Homeless in Hawaii: Governor Declares State of Emergency

“The alarming increase in unsheltered individuals and families over the past two years is particularly significant on O’ahu,” said Scott Morishige, the governor’s coordinator on homelessness.

He said Gov. Ige’s decision to declare a state of emergency would “expedite the state’s plans to help these individuals and families to more quickly transition to permanent housing.”

Ige said his office had identified more than $1.3 million in state funds to be used for that purpose, paving the way for the emergency proclamation.

The monies will serve an additional 1,000 homeless individuals between now and July 31, 2016, providing increased funding for homeless services and programs that promote permanent housing for families and the chronically homeless.

The emergency proclamation will also facilitate the construction of a transitional housing facility for homeless families. The facility will be temporary and have a clear sunset date.

“Despite the recent success of enforcement efforts in the Kaka’ako Makai area, homelessness remains a serious issue in every county throughout the state,” said Ige.

The fact that he pointed to Kaka’ako Makai as an example of how Hawaii can begin to solve its homelessness problem shows the first phase of this emergency campaign to wipe out homelessness will be conducted on the blade of a bulldozer.

Hawaiian officials began their Kaka’ako Makai solution by clearing out — over the objections of the ACLU — what has become a tent city of homeless residents that was staked out on approximately 30 acres of mostly waterfront property in Honolulu.

The ACLU petitioned a judge for a temporary restraining order in late September to stop the bulldozers that were used to level the shacks and tents, along with the vans that were used to load up the homeless. The request was rejected.

“We brought the motion for a TRO because the city had posted signs around Kakaako saying it would immediately destroy some kinds of property. Our only goal here is to make sure our client’s property is not immediately destroyed,” said Dan Gluck, ACLU Hawaii legal director.

This argument is not finished. The ACLU and the city of Honolulu are expected to be back in court to argue again about a restraining order in December.

Meanwhile, state, city, federal governments and various service providers have worked together to place 158 people and 25 families from Kaka’ako’s tent city into shelters since the effort began in early August.

Fifty-four percent of homeless individuals surveyed in Kaka‘ako in early August and more than 80 percent of the families surveyed are being resettled.

“The lesson learned is that great things can be accomplished when we all work together,” said Gov. Ige in a statement released by his office.