3 sites for homeless studied
Sand Island Park, Kalaeloa and a vacant state-owned lot in Kakaako are among the areas being studied as possible sites to shelter the homeless.
"We have people out in the field right now looking at some options," Gov. Linda Lingle said during a news briefing yesterday after meeting with several homeless people and 20 representatives from faith-based groups.
Lingle said it was not her inclination to look at public outdoor facilities as possible options to provide shelter to the homeless because of past failures at a couple of parks. But "it doesn't mean it can't be successful," she said.
Any site that is chosen will need to have adequate security and sanitation, she said.
Yesterday's meeting was held by the governor and scheduled long before Kawaiaha'o Church and Central Union Church announced plans to shut down temporary shelter services for the homeless, many of whom were evicted from Ala Moana Park. The churches will stop offering shelter on Sunday.
Lingle had originally asked members of faith-based groups to come up with long-term solutions to address the homeless problem.
"The meeting this morning was called because I didn't believe the government can solve this by itself," she said. "The reason I don't (is) because the government has not done it over a period of time."
Lingle originally had not invited any homeless people in the meeting, which upset members of Ohana O Hawaii, a group of people who are being sheltered at Kawaiaha'o Church.
Leinati Matautia, head of Ohana O Hawaii, said she and several others favor Sand Island as a temporary solution. Matautia, who has been homeless for 10 years, also described yesterday's meeting as positive.
Lingle said the state will primarily help those in the homeless population who do not suffer from a drug or alcohol addiction or mental illness.
"We're not going to be able to mix them in with the families, who we're looking at helping in this immediate term," Lingle said. The homeless will be screened by the state.
For now the city will continue to allow the homeless to stay at Sister Roberta Derby Park, a grassy area next to the Honolulu Police Department.
But if the state provides shelter at Sand Island or a more remote location without bus service, the city would look at expanding its bus service, said Jeff Coelho, director of the city's Customer Services Department.
State and city officials and faith-based groups expect to continue discussing possible sites throughout the week.
"There's a huge commitment on the part of the faith-based community to do something about this issue," said Jerry Rauckhorst, of Catholic Charities Hawaii.
Linda Smith, senior policy advisor to Lingle, said representatives of Family Promise of Hawaii, which has a consortium of 25 churches, is willing to house families in one-week rotations.
"They're just looking for a safe place to stay every night," Smith said.