Honolulu has been trying many options to get homeless off the streets and into shelters, but there’s no easy fix.
Some refer to Kakaako as the third city, in the midst of a construction boom. But within this area is a growing community where, earlier this month, the count of makeshift shelters numbered 123.
This past Saturday, Colin Kippen, the state’s homeless coordinator, counted 146.
The Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) is responsible for the redevelopment of Kakaako. KHON2 asked what the agency plans to do in the face of the growing homeless encampment.
“I believe a bit of enforcement is necessary,” said Anthony Ching, HCDA executive director. “Currently, they are out of sight, so that allowed the situation to grow. I do believe in the future, as the city locates some programs and services in Kakaako, we will be devoting attention to this area.”
What the agency means is that in a few months, the HCDA will turn to the city to ramp up enforcement of the ordinance that clears the sidewalks of stored property.
“We expect them to be stationed very close by so everyday they would have the opportunity to enforce the laws about blocking sidewalks and about health and safety,” said Ching.
The agency is also working on a long-term solution: an 80-unit rental project for the “very low-income” in Kakaako, e.g. a single person who makes $33,550 or lower, or less than 50 percent of the area median income.
The project would be built on a 10,000-square-foot parking lot off of Cooke Street.
State Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland chairs the Committee on Human Services and Housing. “With the funding we’re hoping to secure this (legislative) session, I think they’ll be able to break ground shortly,” she said, “and they will build 80 units in that area.”
Chun Oakland says when she visits the Kakaako homeless, she sees “a lot of families there with children and many of the adults do work in the area, at Ward Warehouse, Ward Center, Waikiki, Ala Moana. And many of their children go to schools in the area.”
“Is it going to directly take people off the street? I think there are other referral programs that will immediately place them into rentals, but this will certainly help those who need a place to live,” Ching said.
Ching said if the state approves the money to build the project, it will be completed by mid-2017 and consist of one-bedroom and studio apartments.