Housing first priorityUPDATED 8:55 PM HST Mar 10, 2014Video Transcript
money, and lots of it! Today, Mayor Kirk Caldwell's administration defended spending more than $20 million dollars on the controversial Housing First program. But even if the City Council approves, getting communities to accept Housing First could be an even BIGGER challenge. KITV4's Andrew Pereira attended today's budget hearing and has the latest developments. 32-37 59-107 Housing First does exactly what it says... Chronically homeless are given a place of their own, BEFORE tackling issues of substance abuse or mental health. The federal government says that's how the city should spend its grant money from Uncle Sam. PAMELA WITTY-OAKLAND: "THEY REALLY WANT US TO FOCUS ON THAT PERMANENT COMPONENT." To accomplish that goal, Mayor Kirk Caldwell's administration is requesting $18.9 million for the upcoming capital improvements budget and another $3 million in operating funds. PAMELA WITTY-OAKLAND: "WE COULD PROBABLY ACQUIRE, OR REHAB AND ACQUIRE A UNIT FOR ABOUT $100,000 PER UNIT. SO, WITH $18.9 MILLION WE COULD GET TO 189 OR 200 UNITS." To qualify for Housing First, a person or head of household must earn 50 percent or below of a geographical area's median income. The city is examining whether to launch Housing First through a voucher program that would place the chronically homeless in individual units throughout Oahu, or go after a fixed location where homelessness is a major problem. Either way, it may be a hard sell. JUN YANG: "THERE'S GOING TO BE SOME COMMUNITY EDUCATION ON WHAT HOUSING FIRST REALLY MEANS. MANY PEOPLE THINK OF HOUSING AS SOMETHING LIKE A SHELTER. IT IS NOT LIKE A SHELTER. WE HAVE CASE MANAGEMENT THAT WILL BE WRAPPED IN WITH HELPING THE PERSON TO BECOME INDEPENDENT." If the city goes after a fixed location for Housing First, the city's River Street property is NOT an option because of backlash from the Chinatown community. The top priority is placing them SOMEWHERE.. PAMELA WITTY-OAKLAND: "WE'VE GOT OVER 4,000 FOLKS WHO ARE CONSIDERED HOMELESS, EITHER LIVING IN SHELTERS OR UNSHELTERED. SO, WE HAVE A NEED WE NEED TO ADDRESS." Director Witty-Oakland is considering using some units from the city's affordable housing portfolio for the Housing First program. She says that would ONLY happen if residents currently at those complexes agree.