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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Lingle expects homeless 'results'

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Government Writer

Although the Legislature's decision to award some $16.6 million in grants to specific homeless programs deviates from a long-term plan to address homelessness, Gov. Linda Lingle said yesterday that the money would be distributed in a coordinated, comprehensive manner that will further the state's goals.

"We're not going to throw money around," Lingle told homeless-service providers and others invited to a ceremony where she signed three homeless and affordable-housing bills into law.

The bills dedicate $40 million to affordable housing and homeless programs, a 400 percent increase over last year.

Some providers have criticized giving grants to specific programs many of them unproven instead of soliciting competitive proposals.

Lingle said she wanted to make sure that whatever programs received funding would spend the money well. "We have got to produce results," she said.

The state's intent is not to build more shelters to "warehouse" the homeless, but rather to help the homeless move into permanent housing, using resources such as education, job training and healthcare, she said.

The ceremony was held at the state's temporary shelter in Kaka'ako, which was opened May 1 to accommodate about 200 homeless people who were displaced when the city began closing Ala Moana Beach Park at night.

Utu Langi, who manages the facility, said he has been overwhelmed by offers of assistance since he asked for help feeding the people staying there. "For the past three days, I received at least 70 phone calls from people who want to provide help," he said. "The spirit of the community sustains me through this."

The shelter provides a safe place for the homeless to stay from 5:30 p.m. to 8 a.m., as well as a place to leave their belongings during the day. It also gives the residents access to service providers who can help them make the transition into more permanent living situations.

The state will be looking at the facility to determine wheth er it could be used as a model for shelters in other locations, Lingle said.

Noting that increasing the affordable housing inventory is key to addressing the homeless problem, Lingle mentioned other steps the state is taking to address the issue, including working through a list of affordable housing rentals to make sure they remain affordable and splitting the Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawai'i into two agencies, one to manage public housing and the other to focus on financing.

One of the first tasks of the newly created Hawai'i Housing Finance and Development Administration will be seeking a way to keep Kukui Gardens affordable beyond 2011, when the agreement to keep it affordable for 40 years expires.

Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.