Chinatown residents gather to oppose planned housing project
By John Windrow
Advertiser Staff Writer
About 200 Chinatown residents gathered at the Sun Yat Sen Cultural Center on Kukui Street this afternoon to emphasize their opposition to a proposed River Street housing project for chronically homeless people.
The meeting and press conference by the Concerned Citizens of River Street Housing heard the group’s president, Wesley Fong enumerate a list of objections to the 100-unit project, which would be on city property between North Kukui Street and Vineyard Boulevard.
The project would use a “Housing First” model that addresses chronic homelessness by first getting people into housing to get them out of the parks and off the streets, and then deal with their other problems that have landed them in their predicaments: problems such as alcohol, drugs, abusive situations or mental illness.
Opponents fear that housing untreated people in their neighborhood will lead to a host of other problems, including more crime and attracting homeless people to the area. That feeling was evident at the meeting today.
Fong told the crowd that the River Street facility would be near schools, churches, parks, businesses and residences. “We are a densely populated area,” he said. “This isn’t in our backyard; it’s in our living room.”
State Rep. Karl Rhoads, City Council member Rod Tam, Downtown Neighborhood Board Chairman Frank Lavoie and Victor Lim, president of the Fort Street Business Improvement District, were all at the meeting and all expressed their opposition. Rhoads described opposition from people who live in the immediate area as “overwhelming.”
Instead the community wants the city, state and federal government to develop an affordable senior housing project at the site, which they feel would be more appropriate for the neighborhood, Fong said.
The city has said it will not proceed with the $10 million project if the community opposes it.
Supporters say that getting homeless people off the streets is the first step toward making things better in Chinatown, which has a considerable homeless population. They also say that “Housing First” projects on the Mainland have proven to be safe and effective. They say the city project, if approved, would offer support services and security.