Saturday, October 17, 2015


“Deny, deny, deny, emergency”

Sounds like a case of deny, deny, deny, emergency.—
comment on Guardian news story of Hawaii’s state of emergency for homelessness

by Larry Geller

Governor David Ige’s declaration of a state of emergency for homelessness was picked up by AP, CNN and many newspapers across the country and around the world.

While the stories contained no criticism, they did gather comments, both obnoxious and insightful. I don’t usually read comments, but I wondered how widely people would see the vast disparity between the magnitude of the problem Hawaii is facing and the inadequacy of  its response. Sure enough, many did.

Here’s the contrast, snipped from the most widely read coverage, the Associated Press story:

There were 7,260 homeless people in Hawaii at the latest count, meaning Hawaii has the highest rate of homelessness per-capita of any state in the nation.

The new transitional shelter the state is envisioning would house about 15 families at a time …

When completed in December, the [Sand Island] shelter in an industrial part of Honolulu will temporarily house up to 87 clients at a time.

[AP, Hawaii governor declares state of emergency for homelessness, 10/16/2015 ]

Let’s take one more snip out of the AP story and do some math:

Hawaii saw a 23 percent increase in its unsheltered homeless population between 2014 and 2015, and a 46 percent increase in the number of unsheltered families, said Scott Morishige, state homelessness coordinator.

So how will 2016 be different from 2015? Well, nationally, homelessness is decreasing. But clearly, Hawaii has done nothing to slow the process. So if the same rate holds, there could be 1,670 new people classified as homeless in the next year. Note also that those in the Governor’s new shelters are still classified as homeless.

That makes anything the Governor is doing look like… well, next to nothing.

The crisis has been building for over a decade, as I’ve pointed out. Homelessness is only the symptom of poverty, the lack of affordable housing, soaring rents, low wages and the lack of good jobs so that people can pay rent, and no doubt several other factors. It will take a multi-pronged approach impressed with zeal over the space of many years to reverse the trend.

Until the Governor tackles housing creation and the other factors, his “state of emergency” will become just the steady-state for Hawaii. And while shelters are certainly needed, until there is a real Housing First program (housing plus appropriate supports) there will be people living on the streets in Honolulu.

Contrast Honolulu’s approach (criminalization of homelessness) with New York City’s plan:

“Let’s face it — it used to be that the market controlled everything and the developers called the tune, and their vision is what dominated our neighborhoods. Well, we’re changing that,” [Mayor Bill] de Blasio said.

De Blasio, who promised during his campaign to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing, also defended the Rent Guildelines Boards’ decision to freeze rent-stabilized rents this years, which his administration is promoting with a $1 million ad campaign announced last week.

[The Real Deal, De Blasio defends affordable housing push at first town hall: Mayor says the vision of developers will no longer "dominate" neighborhoods, 10/15/2015]

Too muchIn Honolulu, the developers still call the tune. Now that the homeless encampment has been cleared, it’s time to put up the rest of those 22 planned condo buildings for the rich and ultra-rich.

SurgeAlso, note in the AP article that NYC has rent control—and that stabilized rents will be frozen this year. In Honolulu rents surge.


So homelessness is here to stay until either the City or the State does something about it.


Not to worry. The the rail TODs will soon provide an unlimited supply of shelter for the homeless. That will of course be under the elevated platform.

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