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Group asks Hannemann to help homeless people


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POSTED: Friday, November 06, 2009

A faith-based community group marched on Honolulu Hale yesterday, calling for the mayor to create a policy and a department to deal with a widespread housing crisis on Oahu.

About 75 people, clapping blocks of wood together to emphasize their chant, joined the demonstration sponsored by Faith Action for Community Equity, a grass-roots group of several local church and community organizations.

Speeches in the City Hall courtyard were addressed to Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who is away on a trip to Asia. The mayor's executive assistant on housing, Rae Gee, accepted their presentation of an old-fashioned yardman's straw broom and their plea that housing problems not be swept under the rug.

FACE Executive Director Drew Astolfi said Honolulu is the only American city of its size that does not have a housing department.

“;We have no policy, no department, no go-to person,”; he said.

Astolfi said the shrinking amount of affordable housing on the island, the increasing homeless population, foreclosures—which totaled 1,186 in the third quarter of 2009—and development of a transit system are interwoven but are treated as separate issues by the city administration.

“;Forty percent of the homeless are families; 25 percent are children. There are thousands of homeless children out there,”; said the Rev. John Heidel. “;There is a growing number of families who are squeezed out of the housing market, working people on the street. We call ourselves the land of aloha.”;

Reslin Pinano described her family life, sleeping nights in their parked car. She works at two part-time cashier jobs. Her husband is looking for work. Their daughter is 3 years old.

“;This is not the life we want,”; she said.

The Rev. Bob Nakata, Oahu president of FACE, said, “;This is not a tolerable situation. We are here to speak for people who cannot speak for themselves.”;

A city department of housing is not likely soon.

“;We don't have budget for it now,”; Gee told the group as it crowded into the mayor's reception room. “;Thank you for your clear message. The mayor doesn't want to make anyone homeless. I have shared your message with him.”;