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Ask the Mayor: What is Maui County Doing About the Homeless Problem?

September 3, 2017, 12:44 PM HST · Updated September 4, 7:30 AM
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Shopping carts used by homeless individuals in the vacant lot next to the Family Life Center in Kahului. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the questions submitted to his staff. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask the Mayor” column. Submit your own questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa at (808) 270-7855,  AskTheMayor@mauicounty.gov  or mail them to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793.

Dear Mayor:

Q: I live and work in Kahului and have noticed not just homeless, but vagrants who are a nuisance and sometimes even worse.

Instead of the usual short-term fix of clearing out various homeless camps, what is the county doing to address the long-term problem of the homeless population?

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It seems like some of them want to live in peace, while others have no regard for other people and need to be put in jail.

Either we need more transitional housing or more prison space but something needs to be done.

A: You’re right in that there has been a pattern when it comes to our homeless population. This cycle repeats itself every time we clear out a park or homeless encampment, only to see the individuals back on the streets or at a different park in no time.

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Police make arrests, county staff and agency workers clean up the streets and parks, and then the same folks turn up at new campsites in just a few days.

Everyone is doing their job, but these are only temporary solutions.

For longer-term solutions, my administration has proposed several initiatives to help provide emergency shelter, housing and enforcement. These measures have been transmitted to the Maui County Council for review and funding.

Until we are able to move forward with helping people that need help and being able to properly enforce laws, we will continue to witness the same cycle of homelessness that hampers our efforts and erodes our sense of community.

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