Mayor wants city council to shift $4.9 million in federal funding to two-year pilot program

Focusing on downtown, Waikiki, Waianae

 UPDATED 6:57 PM HST May 10, 2013
HONOLULU -

"Here I am. I don't see anybody helping. I'm out here. And actually it's worse than it ever was," said Mary, who is homeless.

Mary is one of 1,465 homeless on Honolulu streets on any given day.

She said when she did have a place to stay it made all the difference in the world.

"What they're really asking is, I just need a place to stay first. Where I can have my clothes dry, where I don't have to sleep with one eye open," said Kalihi Palama's Darrin Sato.

Sato is one of several care providers supporting Mayor Kirk Caldwell's two-year pilot program called Housing First, that will pay property owners scattered across the city, who offer the chronically homeless a place to stay.

This is not the first time the city has tried a housing first program.

Former Mayor Mufi Hanneman wanted to transform one building on River Street in Chinatown into a place where homeless could stay, but ultimately didn't get the support he needed.

"If the community had been engaged effectively perhaps they would have had an opportunity to address their fears," said Emmanuel Kintu, with Kalihi Palama.

Right now, Caldwell said the city is spending $15,000 every two weeks to clear out homeless crowding Honolulu streets.

"This is just moving homeless from sidewalk to sidewalk, park to park. If we start spending that money more in actually housing the homeless we're saving that money," said Caldwell.

With the city council's approval, the pilot program would take a $4.9 million slice of the city's federal grant money.

"I just keep praying that I won't take a step back," said Mary.

Mary just hopes, whatever happens that help comes soon.

"If those basic needs are met then I think we see some changes in people," said Sato.

The program has had mostly good results in other cities.

In 2012, U.S. Vets and the Waikiki Health Center launched their Housing First program and have placed nearly two dozen people so far.

The city is aiming to house about 100 chronically homeless in two years.

They'll focus first on Waikiki, Downtown and Waianae.

If the city council approves the Mayor's plan, the program could launch by early 2014.
 

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