Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Governor Linda Lingle both get artificial hearts on the same day

After the city evicted about 200 homeless citizens of Hawaii from Ala Moana Park in the pouring rain so it could be cleaned up for a tourist festival, Mayor Mufi Hannemann's press secretary tried today to put an unconvincing spin on it-- that it was done to encourage the state to address the homelessness issue.

Today's Star-Bulletin story City had no heart for homeless, gov says carries this amazing statement from the city:
On the same day the state opened a temporary shelter in Kakaako for the homeless who were displaced from the park, the governor criticized the city for not doing enough to help the homeless after they were evicted from Ala Moana.

"I think it should've been done in a different way," Lingle told reporters yesterday.

Bill Brennan, the mayor's press secretary, noted that had the city not closed the park at night, the state might never have stepped up to address homelessness in Hawaii.

"You can see by the fact that the state went into action after the Ala Moana Park closure that they can and they have the expertise and the resources to provide shelter for the homeless," Brennan said.

The city began closing the park at night on March 27, moving out about 200 homeless people. City officials said the park needed to be closed at night to prepare for a major renovation of park facilities, which occurred last week.
Let's face it--what the state has provided, and thank goodness someone did come forward as the resources of the churches came to an end--is a warehouse.

Yes, Governor Lingle is now warehousing the homeless in Hawaii.

This is 'way better than a park--after all, there is a roof, there are toilets and today's Advertiser story State helps homeless take the 'Next Step' describes plans for walls and improvements to the facility. It also describes the city's failure to plan for these people when it announced its intention to close Ala Moana Park:

Lingle followed up yesterday's announcement by chastising top-level officials in Mayor Mufi Hannemann's administration, saying they had not done enough to help homeless people after the closure of Ala Moana Beach Park.

"I think it should have been done in a different way," she said, adding that the city should have spoken to state officials and service providers to assess the effect of the park closure.

The governor, a former mayor of Maui County, also said homelessness is a local issue that should be dealt with by the counties.

Bill Brennan, a spokesman for Hannemann, said service providers were notified about the city's decision.

As for Lingle's assertion that homelessness is a local issue, Brennan said the city does not have health and social services or housing agencies like the state's.

"So it makes sense for the state to address the homeless issue since the state is the entity best equipped to deal with it," he said.
Yes, service providers were notified, and universally, they condemned the action.

This is an important band aid, put together hastily with the hard work of many state employees. But it isn't a lasting solution to relieving the pressures of homelessness in Hawaii. The governor needs to say a lot more.

Mayor Hannemann could start by saying a little himself.

After their summary eviction from Ala Moana park, the houseless people moved next door to City Hall and held signs of protest. They and their support organizations, including the churches who reacted much more quickly than the governor did to provide stopgap shelters, deserve the credit for raising public consciousness on this unacceptable situation.

While having protesters on the City Hall lawn may have embarrassed the Mayor, keeping people in a warehouse will prove to be an embarrassment for the governor if more permanent solutions are not developed and announced very soon. It's one thing to provide emergency shelters and another thing to solve the problems that result in homelessness in the first place.

Both the mayor and the governor should be announcing plans, complete with timeliness, details, budgets, and measurable outcomes, that will solve Hawaii's chronic problems with regard for shelter for all of its citizens.

As to the mayor's statements in both of today's papers, I guess we have to chalk it up to another failure. Green waste, urban planning, and now shelter for the homeless--this city administration needs to do more than take giant steps backwards.


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