Gov. David Ige has announced that $12M in funding will be focused on the most visible and chronically homeless people in Hawai‘i. The appropriation, provided by the Hawai‘i State Legislature during the regular session, was appropriated to the Department of Human Services (DHS) with the flexibility for DHS to allocate. “We know that addressing homelessness is a priority for Hawai‘i,” said Gov. Ige. “We wanted people to understand the framework that guides both DHS and our homelessness efforts.”
DHS Director Rachael Wong outlined the DHS multi-generation philosophy, entitled ‘Ohana Nui, which focuses on families and children. The Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness, Scott Morishige, unveiled the state’s framework to address homelessness which is based on three levers of change: affordable housing, health and human services and public safety. “The $12M allocation is a natural extension of this framework,” he said.
LEVER 1: AFFORDABLE HOUSING (FUNDED SEPARATELY)
The first lever in the state’s framework is a high priority for legislators and the administration. Funding for this focus area is coming from separate budgets, but the $12M is helping to complement those efforts.
LEVER 2: HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES ($9.4M)
There will be $6M in new funding for Rapid Re-Housing (or rental subsidies) and Housing First (an evidence-based program that houses and supports chronically homeless individuals suffering from severe mental health conditions, substance abuse or other issues). Half of the Housing First resources will go to neighbor islands.
An additional $1.4M in funding will support the state’s Family Assessment Center being constructed in Kaka‘ako. This includes $500k for renovations and $900k for operating costs for two years.
LEVER 3: PUBLIC SAFETY ($1.925M)
Public safety refers to keeping public places safe and open for everyone. Morishige emphasized that government has an obligation to respond to encampments on public land. Also, the state’s public safety protocol allows the state to properly address areas where it is unsafe for people to live. “This is not to criminalize homelessness,” Morishige said. “We want to connect people with shelter or housing, not just move them from place to place.” The budget sets aside $1.9M in new funding for state departments such as the Department of Transportation, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Public Safety Division and the Hawaii Community Development Authority for enforcement-related activities.
DATA & INFRASTRUCTURE ($675,000)
In addition, $325,000 in new funding will be used for data collection and analysis. “We have to be able to measure progress,” Morishige said. There is also $350,000 in new funding for state-owned homeless shelter renovations and upgrades.
The additional funding in service dollars reflects a nearly 60 percent increase. “This will address Hawaii’s most visible and chronic homeless population that we see on the streets and sidewalks,” Morishige said.