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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, June 12, 2003

Get cracking on ending chronic homelessness

If President Bush has a plan to end chronic homelessness in 10 years, who are we to scoff?

In fact, we're all ears, and so apparently were 225 mayors who attended the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Denver and endorsed Bush's proposal to provide permanent housing and services to the chronically homeless.

Rather than just "managing" chronic homelessness, the mayors say they want to end it for once and for all. That's a noble mission. Let's see if it's doable.

As it is, federal cuts to state funding have spurred some major belt-tightening and threaten to eliminate many of the very programs that keep people off the streets.

Nonetheless, Bush's plan calls for cities to collaborate with nonprofits and businesses in coming up with solutions to end chronic homelessness that must be submitted by January 2004.

Last year, HUD gave out more than $1 billion in homeless assistance to more than 2,000 local projects. Next year, the amount will rise to $1.5 billion. If Honolulu plans to get in on the action, we suggest it get cracking on those proposals and make the deadline.

Right now, Mayor Jeremy Harris has plans for a $6 million center where homeless people can hook up with an array of service providers. That should help the temporary homeless, who mostly need jobs and affordable housing to get off the streets.

Solutions for the chronically homeless, many of whom suffer from mental health problems including drug addictions, are more complicated and require more creativity, but it's infinitely worth the effort. Let's not miss out on this opportunity, Honolulu.