May 17th, 2011 – Governor Neil Abercrombie and his Coordinator on Homelessness Marc Alexander unveiled an action plan today to address homelessness in Hawai’i. The 90-day plan includes coordination among government, businesses, non-profit, community and faith-based organizations, shelters, outreach services and private citizens. The plan aims to increase opportunities for people who are homeless to receive services.

“It’s easy for me to stand here, or one of the mayors, and so on and indicate where we want to go, but the hard quotidian everyday work that has to be done, is done by the folks that are here and their colleagues,” said Governor Abercrombie who was joined by about a dozen stakeholders who have been working on the plan for the past three months.

“So, we’re going to be moving forward whether it’s moving from shelters to homes, whether it’s moving from helplessness to hopefulness, that will be up to us to implement what game plan is put forward by the folks that are standing here and their colleagues across the state,” said Gov. Abercrombie.

A new State Interagency Council on Homelessness will be formed to address broader issues, such as affordable housing strategies, in a long-term, statewide plan. The 90-day document includes a list of 9 specific objectives:

1. Identify and assess people who are chronically homeless for immediate services in Waikiki and the urban core of Honolulu.
2. Support the chronically homeless and chronically mentally ill who need mental health treatment.
3. Identify available substance abuse treatment services and gaps in services to maximize access for the chronically homeless in need.
4. Identify and provide outreach as early as possible where persons who are homeless are established or increasing in number.
5. Coordinate community efforts to maintain clean public areas.
6. Ensure that existing shelters are maximized for capacity and service.
7. Provide information about sound relocation and financial planning, including Hawai’i’s high cost of living, to individuals and families outside of Hawai’i who inquire about the availability of services.
8. Establish the State Interagency Council on Homelessness.
9. Educate the general public about the most effective means to eliminate homelessness.

“We have to be coordinated and collaborative in our approach to homelessness so we can face this challenge as a society. This plan is about taking immediate action together,” said Gov. Abercrombie.

While the Governor said the next 90 days would be critical, Alexander acknowledged that solving homelessness would not happen in a day or a week or two weeks, but through persistence and coordinated action, we will achieve results,” said Alexander.

According to 2007 data released by the Governor’s office, Hawai’i has twice as many people who are homeless per 100,000 people as the national average. The information further states that nearly one-third of the sheltered homeless are children; more than ten percent are veterans; and more than 60 percent have lived in Hawai’i for more than ten years. Not all homeless are unemployed, in fact, the Governor’s office states that almost half of the families who are homeless include someone who is employed.

Alexander said, “Just as there is no single profile for someone who is homeless, there are no simple solutions to ending homelessness. The exciting part of the 90-Day Plan is that it requires us to work together in new and creative ways to get the job done,” said Alexander.

The 90-Day Plan is a collaborative effort and includes participation from: Bridging The Gap, Waikiki Health Center, City & County of Honolulu Department of Community Services, Institute of Human Services, State Department of Human Services Homeless Programs, Waianae Community Outreach, Partners in Care, and U.S. Vets.

Gov. Abercrombie also noted the importance of the public participation in the effort. Last month he established call-in numbers for citizens who want to help a person who is homeless or may need health and safety intervention. The helplines can be accessed around-the-clock by calling or emailing the following agencies:

* Waikiki Health Center’s Care-A-Van Program on O’ahu: (808) 791-9359;
* HOPE Services on Hawai’i Island: (808) 935-3050;
* Family Life Center on Maui: (808) 877-0880;
* Kaua’i Economic Opportunity: call (808) 245.4077, x228;

Persons wishing to help someone who may be suffering from homelessness are asked to provide the location and time when the homeless individual is known to frequent the area, a detailed description of the individual or group, and their own contact information. After a report is made, an outreach team is assigned to visit the person.

*** Supporting information courtesy Office of the Governor, State of Hawai’i.

Osher,Wendy. “Governor Unveils 90 Day Plan on Homelessness in Hawaii” Hawaii Tribune Herald, 17 May. 2011.