Thursday, May 09, 2013


Caldwell announces bupkis for his long-awaited homeless program

by Larry Geller

Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s Housing First plan to address homeless issues calls for 25 “chronically homeless” people to be placed in housing units across Oahu by the end of 2014 and then place an additional 50 people in 2015, according to a plan obtained by the Star-Advertiser.

[Star-Advertiser, Caldwell's project to house chronically homeless, 5/9/2013]

Caldwell’s plan will benefit only 75 people? What do the rest get? Planters?

There were an estimated 4,353 homeless residents of Oahu in January 2012. The Star-Advertiser story alludes to 505 chronically homeless, who will be the ones apparently qualifying for the insignificant number of available slots.

The administration wants only one full-time position and an additional $150,000 in the operating budget for the 2014 fiscal year.

There is a Yiddish word for this that was popular when I lived in New York: bupkis, politely: “absolutely nothing; nothing of value, significance, or substance” but understood also to mean small, round goat droppings.

Compare this massive commitment to what Mayor Caldwell has already admitted his administration spent in a futile (and continuing) attempt to dislodge the homeless from the sidewalks, where they were forced to pitch tents because other options have been taken away from them:

garbage truck[4]The law we are working with today, the Stored Property Ordinance, is a first step.  But, the public should know that every time the Department of Facility Maintenance removes property from the sidewalks, it costs around 15,000 dollars for two days of work – one day to tag and the next day to remove.  In the last SPO round, the city picked up 3.1 tons of property from the sidewalks in areas including Kalakaua Avenue and Thomas Square.

[Civil Beat, Full Text Of Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s Inaugural State Of The City Address, 4/3/2013]

Let’s do some math. By now, the city has conducted more than 60 raids to pick up property from the sidewalks. The raids have hurt those living on the streets, of course, but they have not removed them from the Mayor’s sight.  So 60 x $15,000 is $900,000. This does not, of course, include the cost of the Mayor’s planter blitzkrieg around Thomas Square.

Bottom line: around a million dollars was wasted to punish the homeless and all the city will spend to help a tiny fraction of them is $150,000 for 2014.

Repeat after me: bupkis.


Your count of 60 raids is low. In the interest of accuracy in bupkis calculation, let me contribute that my chronology of raids on the deOccupy Honolulu encampment and the neighboring Victoria Street homeless lists the 5/2/2013 raid as number 69. I know I'm missing a few but these are the ones that I have certainty through documentation. And -- it really bears pointing out -- these 69 documented raids are only the ones at Thomas Square. There appears to be a separate raiding team and method for encampments outside Honolulu's urban core. So that bumps the cost up to over a million dollars. I hate to point this out because some not only blame the poor for their poverty, but blame them for the cost to punish them for their poverty too.

Thanks for putting Caldwell's intentions, actions in the proper perspective, Larry.

From what I read this is a pilot program which will be expanded if successful. The city is on life support financially, so to the Mayor's credit he is doing something.

I am not sure what Caldwell is doing, from the statement. And accepting Doug's more accurate count in his comment above, instead of spending the money to help homeless people, he has spent $15,000 x 69 = $1,035,000 to hurt them.

When discussing the cost of a social services program, it's important to assess the savings it is likely to provide. That is, what is the cost of not providing appropriate, effective services. In the case of chronically homeless individuals, the annual per-person costs of doing nothing are higher than the projected annual per-person cost of the Housing First initiative.

The current costs include emergency room and other medical services. Housing First programs in other states have shown dramatic savings.

Implementing a more aggressive Housing First program with the goal of servicing the majority of our current homeless population within a reasonable time period would most likely result in a significant reduction in cost compared to the current budget needed to provide services. And that is without adding in the $1M-plus for confiscating property, and the still-unknown but possibly substantial court-ordered compensation and punitive damages related to the numerous sweeps.



Media Watch! The Star Advertiser editors choose this story as front page news on 05/10/2013 with heading - "CITY TACKLES SHELTER FIRST" - but, just into par 4 readers might be shoched to learn - "The goal is to help UP TO (my emphise added) 100 people find housing - obstensibly apartment units - by the end of 2015“. -Hardly a "tackle" in the interest of the poor and homeless but certainly a cosy comfortable rappure going on between main stream media and corporate city. The table on the right of the Advertiser story shows a cost of $30k per person per annium - actually it has the gaul to say "could be as low as $30,000“. It shows $12k for rent ($1000 p mo) and a third of that again for Admin; $3000. Thats $15k. The other half of the $30k is for - Case Management, Mental Health, Health Care, Substance Abuse Treatment, Workforce Development. Hmmm! I guess the regular chronic homeless person is in need of each of those services by city reckoning. The way gov. and society treats these people it might not surprise me of the totality of their condition. But, hang on, treating homelessness is defined by arranging a home - thats it! And bear in mind that simply having an address, a simple roof, shower, toilet and a place to put ones belonging goes a long way in treating other related personal poblems. But further, are not social and economic services for health and addiction, work skills and all already covered by other state and fed programs? - oh that's right - bupkis there too.

You've raised several excellent questions, particularly your points at the end. I wonder if the City program has been really thought through or just thrown together for publicity?

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