State makes vigorous strides to shelter homeless
Homeless people have been forced to decamp from Maili Beach Park, where recreational activity has returned.
OCCUPIED by homeless campers in recent years, Maili Beach Park has been taken back
by families who enjoy going to the beach. The state's opening of an emergency shelter at the Waianae Civic Center last month provided temporary quarters for the homeless, but much more is needed to broaden the transition to other beaches.
Baby showers, birthday parties, soccer practices and sunbathing are the order of the day at Maili Beach Park, the Star-Bulletin's Rosemarie Bernardo found in a recent visit. The city's closing of the park at night has forced the homeless to go elsewhere, some to nearby beach parks along the Waianae Coast. Eventually, beach parks must not be regarded as a place for people to live.
Eighty percent of the homeless who lived at the Maili park moved to the state shelter, which housed 168 people last week and is expected to reach its capacity of 270 by the end of this month, according to Darryl Vincent, the shelter's director. They are asked to pay $120 a month for singles and $216 for families, although no one is turned away for being unable to pay. The shelter is operated by U.S. Vets-Hawaii under contract with the state.
Hundreds more have pitched their tents at other parks. Many have full-time jobs but cannot afford the rental market and stand in line for public subsidies, while paying the nation's most onerous state income taxes for the working poor.
Opening of the Waianae facility is part of an ambitious state effort to add shelters for the homeless. Last fall, the state opened shelters that can accommodate 225 people at Kalaeloa and 100 at Waipahu. A shelter at Maili with a capacity of 220 people is expected to be completed late this year and another with 64 units and a dormitory with 40 beds is expected to be completed next January. Stay periods generally are limited to two years.
About 3,900 residents receive $770 rent subsidies from the city that allow them to pay for housing under a federally funded program, but 8,500 stand in line. Those near the top of the queue will have to wait four to six months, while those at the bottom must wait five to seven years, according to Debbie Kim Morikawa, director of the city Department of Community Services.
Similar subsidies are offered by the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, where 2,051 are on the waiting list for two years or more. The number of recipients has dwindled during the past three years because the rent subsidy has risen from $590 to $740 to keep up with rising rents.
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