Homeless crisis requires cooperation between city, state
Governor Lingle has declared a state emergency to deal with the homeless problem on Oahu's Leeward Coast.
GOVERNOR Lingle has announced an ambitious plan to deal with what she accurately describes as a "major disaster and catastrophe" of homeless living on the beaches of Leeward Oahu. Lingle and Mayor Hannemann are scheduled to meet Monday to resolve their differences, and his cooperation might be critical for the plan to succeed.
The governor declared an emergency that suspends various statutes such as development and contracting permits and zoning requirements for a year while the state creates emergency and transitional shelters. She compared the plan to a transitional shelter used by the state in Kakaako to house about 200 homeless people who had been driven from Ala Moana Beach Park after the city shut it down for repairs in March.
This plan obviously will be on a much larger scale. State officials estimated the homeless on the Leeward Coast at more than 2,000 last month but now say they might number as many as 4,000. Lingle asked for assistance and coordination of the private sector and the city.
As Lingle was preparing to meet with homeless advocates on the Waianae Coast more than two weeks ago to assess the problem, Hannemann announced that three beach parks where many of the homeless sleep -- Maili, Nanakuli and Keaau -- will be closed at night in September for renovation. The city will perform similar work in August at Waianae Beach Park, but it will not be closed at night because no homeless sleep there.
Lingle has said she expects that "between now and the end of the year, we can have substantial emergency shelters set up along the Leeward Coast." Possible locations are Kalaeloa, formerly Barbers Point, Lualualei and commercial property in Waianae.
The mayor has refused to delay the renovations because "the community is tired of waiting." He agreed last week to telephone Lingle to set up tomorrow's meeting only after being peppered with questions by reporters about why he had not done so previously.
Beach parks are intended as places for residents to relax, not as living quarters for the homeless, but the governor and mayor should coordinate their efforts to achieve that goal without causing even more distress to the poorest segment of society.
Lingle said Waianae Coast residents told her at the June meeting "that while they have compassion for the homeless, they also want access to beach parks that are safe, clean and available to the general public to enjoy." Lingle and Hannemann seem to agree on that point.
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