Monday, June 08, 2015


City RFP for services for Sand Island camp analyzed and questioned

by Larry Geller

I’m amazed. Not really. No, maybe I should snark that this RFP meets my expectations.

I often comment that our state isn’t very good at planning. Nor, it seems, is the City and County of Honolulu.

A copy of their RFP for services for the Sand Island homeless camp project is here. This is an OCR copy, do not rely on it. If you need an official copy, get the latest from the city procurement website.

Responding to any RFP is an expensive proposition. This one may cost an agency a couple of thousand dollars in labor costs, if they were not involved in assisting the city in creating it in the first place. It would clearly take experts and bean counters to offer a realistic and competitive bid. Looking at it, due to a requirement that shelter or housing services have already been provided by the applicant for five years, there are realistically only a handful of local entities that could qualify. Yes, you probably know who they are.

So while assuring you that I’m unqualified to evaluate this RFP, I’ll dive right in. If I’m misinterpreting some of this, please correct me.

Let’s have a look at it.

The City and County of Honolulu, through its Department of Community Services, requests proposals from nonprofit agencies to operate and manage a facility to provide short term shelter and services to homeless individuals and couples on the island of Oahu. The Hale Mauliola (the "Center") is intended to provide an opportunity to for homeless individuals to begin their transition from homelessness to appropriate shelter or housing in the community. The City and County of Honolulu will be responsible for the development of all site improvements necessary to establish the Center. The City will have placed twenty five (25), 8' x 20' refurbished shipping containers at the Project site. Each refurbished shipping container will be divided in four (4) living units of approximately 80 square feet. Each living unit will have windows for ventilation, a lockable door, and electricity service. The living units will not have bathrooms or plumbing.

Note that this RFP calls for refurbished shipping containers whereas the RFP for physical facilities (my earlier post) does not. Modular housing is an alternative.

Note that both individuals and couples are expected to occupy 80 square feet.

Next, note that electricity service is to be provided. The other RFP says there will be no electricity service.

Reading through it, I understand that anyone discharged from a hospital can’t be housed by this project. So I suppose the hospital has to discharge its chronically homeless to the street or beach. We can do better than that, I think, and we should. If someone is chronically homeless, with perhaps multiple admissions to a hospital or other facility, why are they barred from this project?

From the goals:

1. To transition a minimum of 250 unsheltered homeless persons residing on Oahu to stable shelter, housing, or supportive housing in the community over a period of one year.

2. To transition an additional 250 unsheltered homeless persons residing on Oahu to stable shelter, housing, or supportive housing in the community in year two of the Project.

3. Provide services to homeless individuals including, but not limited to, intake and assessment, case management, support services, and housing and shelter placement.

4. To reduce street homelessness by providing on-site short-term shelter to individuals not to exceed 60 days of residency.

These are goals the vendor will be measured against, but are they achievable, when staying at the facility is limited to 60 days only, but more important, where the city does not yet have a Housing First program going? Where will even 250 persons find stable housing in the community? Recall also that the City Council denied the Mayor’s request for funds for personnel to work on the housing issue.

The wording “to stable shelter” is suspicious. Is the city requiring the winner of this contract to substitute for a proper Housing First program? What measurements determine if a person is in “stable” housing? Again, isn’t that the job of a proper Housing First program?

In fact, the RFP seems to set up competition for any real Housing First program. Evaluation will depend in part on “the number of client who remain housed after transition at 30, 60, and 90 days from transition from the Project.” That’s not permanent housing. It looks to me like yet another excuse to not go ahead with a proper Housing First program.

Why spend taxpayer money on a project that succeeds if target individuals can drop out of housing in only 90 days?

Think: people can stay at the shelter for only 60 days, and in another 90 days, if they are back on the street, this program is still considered a success. Presumably the churn through the same apartments could be used to demonstrate that 250 placements have been met.

This RFP does not include the intensive support services necessary for a real Housing First program to succeed. Instead, it looks like the city is hoping to move people out of Waikiki on the cheap.

Then there’s this:

Services shall not be provided to … persons who are not citizens or resident aliens of the United States or who otherwise do not possess documentation evidencing a legal basis to remain in the United States.

The city illegally seized and destroyed personal possessions including ID, medicines, and so forth, in the course of its innumerable sidewalk raids. So there will be plenty of sidewalk dwellers who do not possess documentation of any kind. What will they do—profile anyone speaking Spanish or who has a Canadian accent?

Please read through the RFP yourself (skip all the boilerplate) and see what you think.

Bottom line for me: this program is a distraction, perhaps it will do some good, but it is money spent that should go instead to Housing First. It also appears to demonstrate that those displaced by the city’s sit-lie laws have a place to go to, whereas in reality, after 60 days, they will not.

Don’t be fooled.


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