Monday, July 27, 2015


Gov terminates his homeless czar, appoints politicians to a new team to work on homelessness issues

by Larry Geller

Director of the state Department of Human Services Rachel Wong gave homeless czar Colin Kippen four days notice today—his last day at work will be July 31.

Throughout his tenure Kippen was never given a budget to carry out his responsibilities.

At a press conference called for 2:30 today Governor Ige announced the formation of a Governor’s Leadership Team on Homelessness, composed entirely of politicians rather than housing or social service experts.

From the Governor’s news release, which you can read here,

The leadership team includes Gov. Ige, Sen. Jill Tokuda, Rep. Sylvia Luke, Director of Human Services Rachael Wong, Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Honolulu City Council Chairman Ernie Martin, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz’s designee and U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono’s designee.

The news release does not mention Housing First, the evidence-based program that has worked so successfully elsewhere on the Mainland. It appears that the focus may be on finding “short-term” solutions, which may mean forcible relocation of individuals and families from Kakaako and other encampments to other temporary locations:

The Governor’s Leadership Team on Homelessness will identify and assign parcels of land to be used for the creation of temporary shelters in one or two communities; implement measures to transfer residents of homeless encampments to shelters; work with service providers to establish protocols to assess shelter residents for financial, physical, mental health and other needs; and determine costs and obtain funding to meet these objectives.

The leadership team will consult with law enforcement leaders, non-profit organizations and other interested parties to assist with implementing short-term objectives.

Part of Kippen’s work was to convene meetings to explore the requirements for a permanent solution. At meetings he chaired of the Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness, Kippen brought in experts including a national expert who explained the importance of appropriate, often intensive services (called ACT services) needed to ensure that many people are able to remain in permanent housing long-term. Using these methods, municipalities across the country have been able to greatly reduce their homeless populations.

Without support, many people do not remain in their apartments and end up on the street once again.

It’s not clear whether this will be a priority for the Governor’s political group. Nor is it clear how people can be legally relocated, if that’s what they choose to do.


State looks to communities for homeless solutions (KITV, 7/14/2015)

Is public housing being maximized in Hawaii’s homeless crisis? (KHON, 7/22/2015)

Homeless “safe haven” to open in Kakaako (KITV, 7/24/2015)

Off The Beat: What Laws Did Hawaii Rep. Tom Brower Break? (Civil Beat, 11/22/2013)


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