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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Homeless problem is solvable, state says

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

A 10-year plan by the state to end chronic homelessness represents an unprecedented commitment by different levels of government and the private sector, Gov. Linda Lingle and other officials said yesterday.

Homeless plan

The state's 10-year plan to address homelessness calls for:

Providing more access to appropriate, affordable, safe and decent housing.

Preventing individuals and families from becoming homeless.

Decreasing barriers to housing.

Improving data collection to find new funding for homeless assistance.

Providing the support services necessary to help the homeless.

Creating partnerships throughout the community to end homelessness.

The Hawai'i Plan to End Chronic Homelessness was released to the public yesterday by Lingle and the homeless advocates who spent the past two years conducting the study.

Lynn Maunakea, executive director for the Institute for Human Services, which provides shelters for the needy, said she is pleased with the attention being pointed at the homeless problem, as well as the new approach being undertaken.

"This plan brought into account the systems change that's needed to make a difference with homelessness," said Maunakea, one of the members of the Homeless Policy Academy consisting of government, nonprofit and private-sector representatives who worked on the report. Studies have shown that the chronic homeless exist "because they have fallen through the cracks of the system," she said.

Lingle said she's optimistic Hawai'i residents won't allow homelessness to continue because "having people who are homeless, on the street or in the shelter, goes against how we see ourselves."

The 20-page report was submitted to Philip Mangano, executive director for the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, in September. Among the guiding principles in the report is that "homelessness is a solvable problem."

Mangano, President Bush's coordinator for homeless programs, was also at the State Capitol yesterday. He applauded the plan and other efforts the state's leaders are taking to address homelessness.

"If there's a place that can accomplish the objective of ending chronic homelessness in this country, I think we're sitting in that place, in that state right now," Mangano said.

Estimates say there are at least 5,000 homeless people on O'ahu. A lack of affordable rentals is cited as one of the reasons for homelessness and one consultant found the state is lacking 30,000 affordable homes.

Lingle said the new report found that the top two reasons people became homeless were inability to pay rent and family conflict. People should focus on tackling those two issues if they want to solve the homeless problem, she said.

Among the steps her administration is taking to address the housing issue in her upcoming two-year budget, Lingle said, are $20 million to rehabilitate existing public housing facilities and an additional $20 million for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to provide infrastructure at its housing projects. While homelessness and affordable housing are not the same thing, she said, addressing affordable housing will help keep homelessness in check and provide those without homes more opportunities.

Lingle said she will reveal other parts of her affordable housing initiative in her State of the State address to lawmakers later this month.

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.