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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 9, 2006

Shelters are fine, but homeless need homes

Here's the problem with helping the homeless: No matter what you do, it's always just a drop in the bucket. Or a first step.

That's the case with the state's plan to spend about $9 million to open up a 300-bed emergency homeless shelter in Wai'anae and 400-units of transitional housing in Kalaeloa by the end of the year.

That's great —anything helps.

Sadly, it's still not enough.

While the state should be commended for coming up with a plan to address the issue of homeless people who live on the beach parks along the Wai'anae Coast, the number of units still falls short of the need. Counts for the homeless have ranged from 700 up to 4,000 based on varying agencies and their survey methodology. And that's just in Wai'anae, not islandwide.

It's important to note the words in front of the terms shelter and housing. "Emergency" and "temporary" should be just that, stopgaps before permanent housing.

That's the ultimate solution.

The state already sees the problem at the Next Step emergency shelter in Kaka'ako. There are 300 people there, including many of the homeless from Ala Moana Beach Park last spring. They can't take the next step because there's not enough affordable housing on Oa'hu.

Until the state and the city come up with an aggressive and comprehensive plan to add more affordable housing, we'll have little choice but to reach for the short-term relief emergency and temporary shelters provide.