Lingle OKs $40M for homeless
The three bills signed are conceived as a solution to the crisis
Gov. Linda Lingle vowed yesterday to solve the crisis of thousands of Hawaii citizens having no place to live, signing legislation that pumps more than $40 million into homeless programs.
"This represents a 400 percent increase in the resources we have been putting towards the problem ... and that increase shows you how little we have been willing to commit in the past," Lingle said in ceremonies at a state warehouse set up as a homeless shelter.
After two years of lobbying the Legislature, Lingle signed three bills into law that allot more than $40 million for homeless programs and make it easier for developers to build affordable housing.
Lingle emphasized that the state is responsible for -- and in charge -- of the program.
"I want to be really clear, so there is no hand-wringing, no calling up to release my money tomorrow. We are going to have a coordinated, comprehensive plan to spend this money," Lingle told a group of public and private housing providers and social service agency directors.
"We have a 10-year plan to end homelessness. It is well thought out with all the stakeholders. We are not going to start throwing money around -- that is not in the plan we all developed," Lingle said.
One of the three bills signed into law, House Bill 2176, spends $31.6 million to repair existing public housing, renovate state and federal buildings as emergency and transitional shelters, and start homeless and low-income housing projects. Included is $2 million for the city and $400,000 to each of the neighbor island counties.
A portion of the money comes from the state conveyance tax, which was increased last year. Lingle was successful in getting a larger proportion of the conveyance tax, charged when real estate changes hands, dedicated to the rental housing trust fund.
Another bill, House Bill 2964, allows the state to lease public lands to qualified nonprofit organizations for as little as $1 a year if the developer guarantees that the land will be used to build and maintain affordable housing.
A third bill, House Bill 2991, allows the state to sell special-purpose revenue bonds for companies and government agencies that agree to develop low- and moderate-income housing.
Jeff Minter, executive vice president of UniDev LLC, a national development firm specializing in low- and moderate-income housing that has several projects in Hawaii, said his firm was hoping to use the funding for more housing.
"We think there is a need for more housing, especially on Maui," Minter said.
Lingle staged the bill-signing ceremony at the state's new homeless shelter, developed in a warehouse at the end of Forrest Avenue in Kakaako. Dubbed the Next Step, the shelter is already housing more than 200 people every night, according to state officials.
Although the shelter is temporary -- it was set up to handle the homeless evicted by the city from Ala Moana Park two months ago -- Lingle said it might become a model for emergency housing programs.
"We need to be able to show the public that we are achieving results. We need to show that people staying here are now working or getting training, or their children are in child care, but we have purposefully not set a timetable for closing it," Lingle said.
Asked about the group of homeless who refused the state's offer and moved instead to Sand Island state park, Lingle said no one was being forced to remain.
Utu Langi, the shelter's program director, said the shelter currently is holding 277 people.
Earlier in the week, the state set up an open house for 50 service providers at the Kakaako shelter so homeless people could get advice and counseling.
Already, Langi said, there have been some successes.
"There was a lady last week who left because she and her children found a home. There were a couple of guys who found jobs, and they are saving so they can get a place to rent. And there were a couple of guys who asked for a drug rehabilitation program," Langi said.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Sharon Rose was among those at the Pier 1 shelter May 1.
SERVICE PROVIDERS NAMED
Some of the larger grants for homeless programs passed by the Legislature and approved by Gov. Linda Lingle:
» $5 million for Hawaii Coalition of Christian Churches to develop a housing project to include emergency, transitional and low-income rental housing in Waianae.
» $3.2 million to the counties to locate, design and maintain temporary emergency shelters.
» $2.1 million for Ohana Ola O Kahumana for a community center and transitional shelter.
» $2 million for Child and Family Service to build emergency and transitional housing for abused families with children.
» $600,000 for Ohana Family of the Living God for a temporary mobile shelter.
» $500,000 for H-5 (Hawaii Helping the Hungry Have Hope) pilot project to turn old tour buses into mobile shelters.
» $300,000 to Victory Ohana Prison Fellowship to help homeless mentally ill, parolees and substance abusers.
Other funding approved yesterday:
» $10 million to renovate vacant state and federal public housing units.
» $5 million to renovate state and federal buildings to be used as emergency transitional shelters.
» $8.4 million to go into the state Rental Housing Trust Fund from an increased conveyance tax on real estate sales.