Leeward homeless crisis declared
Gov. Lingle appoints a state official who will oversee the emergency construction of shelters
Gov. Linda Lingle officially declared the homeless problem in Leeward Oahu a "major disaster and catastrophe" yesterday and appointed a state official to help solve the issue.
"When you see such a bold and articulate display of political will on behalf of the government, you will see something happen," said Margot Schrire, an Institute for Human Services spokeswoman, who considered the homeless situation on the Leeward Coast a "very serious problem."
According to a news release, the year-long emergency proclamation will accelerate the process to develop emergency and transitional shelters for as many as 4,000 people by allowing the state to bypass certain restrictions, including development permits, zoning adjustments and waivers, and contracting and bidding requirements.
Lingle appointed Kaulana Park, an executive assistant to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands director, as homeless-solutions team leader. He will serve as a liaison between the state and public and be in charge of all projects aimed at helping the homeless in the area.
"The largest communities of DHHL homesteads are on the Leeward Coast, and Kaulana will bring that history and understanding of the area with him," Lingle said yesterday in the news release.
The government plans to renovate existing buildings in the area and possibly construct a shelter in Kalaeloa to temporarily house the people displaced when the city closes beach parks along the Leeward Coast for renovation as early as September.
The government worries that the lack of existing shelters in the area will endanger the health, safety and welfare of the community and threaten the environment. Officials said people have found human waste on Leeward Coast beaches and in the parks around the toilets and showers.
According to the news release, a recent Department of Health survey of the potential public health impacts prompted the governor to take immediate action and issue an emergency proclamation similar to the one issued in April that enabled the development of the Next Step Project transitional shelter in Kakaako.
"Unlike the Next Step Project, which focused on one facility in one location, the scope and magnitude of the homeless problem in Leeward Oahu requires a broader and more diverse range of facilities, locations and services and will involve more organizations," Lingle said.
The governor also said the state will issue a request for interest for any company or agency that would build or operate the homeless shelters. Lingle said the plan includes long-range projects such as transitional housing and affordable rental units.