Legislature Provides $50 Million to Address Homelessness
The conference committee on Housing passed two bills totaling $34.7 million to fund ‘Ohana Zones and support medical services for homeless populations statewide. Senate Bill 2401 allocates $30 million for ‘Ohana Zones on four islands, including Maui; and $400,000 for two new Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion programs on Maui and Hawaiʻi Island.
Rep. John Mizuno who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee said this has been “the most comprehensive year ever in funding homeless initiatives, focused on addressing the crisis rather than funding more homeless sweeps.” Policies, he said, provide individuals in need with stability, a place to heal, and the ability to become self-sufficient.
The bills now move to a final vote in both Houses.
The conference committee passed the following:
SB 2401 SD2 HD1 CD1:
$30 million for ‘Ohana Zones on three Oahu sites, and one each on Kaua‘i, Maui and Hawai‘i Island. Public lands will be selected by the Governor for the zones.
$1 million for an Emergency Department Assessment pilot program.
$1 million for a medical respite pilot program.
$800,000 for a new family assessment center.
$400,000 for two new Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) programs on Maui and Hawai‘i Island.
SB 2027 SD2 HD1 CD1:
$1.5 million for a Coordinated Statewide Homeless Initiative.
Rep. Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakōlea, McCully, Pāwa‘a, Mānoa) said lawmakers this session decided to take the lead on finding homeless solutions and ‘Ohana Zones are an important part of that concept.
“The $30 million for ‘Ohana Zones is a lump sum that we hope to partner with the private sector using Kahauiki Village as a model,” said House Majority Leader Belatti. “This amount is our estimate of what the infrastructure and support services will cost in multiple sites across the state. The idea here is to be very flexible. What might work on O‘ahu might not be the best plan for one of the neighbor islands.”
Rep. Tom Brower (Waikīkī, Ala Moana) said the ‘Ohana Zones idea has been around for many years but will now become a reality.
“Ten years ago we started looking into safe zones for our homeless population,” said Brower, Chair of the House Housing Committee. “Many were reluctant to go into shelters or even permanent housing. This will provide a better option for many homeless people.”
“The measures we passed appropriate millions of dollars to help eliminate the homeless problem and build affordable rentals,” said Senator Will Espero (‘Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of ‘Ewa Villages), Chair of the Senate Committee on Housing. “The Governor now has all the resources and tools necessary to provide housing and to assist the many homeless advocates and organizations with their programs and services that will help families and individuals rebuild their lives. This year’s funding is just the beginning of the Legislature’s commitment to end homeless,”
Representative John M. Mizuno (Kalihi Valley, Kamehameha Heights, Lower Kalihi) said he is proud of the work lawmakers have done this session to support homeless initiatives.
“Thousands of homeless who are struggling on our streets will see their lives change greatly for the better through this bill. The public will also see a difference when they have their parks back, their sidewalks clear, and see much less suffering throughout our communities,” said Senator Josh Green (Kona, Kaʻū), Chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services.
The total investment made by the Legislature to solve Hawai‘i’s growing homeless crisis this session is about $50 million, an increase over the Governor’s budget request.
Lawmakers last week provided $15 million to fund existing homeless service programs, $3 million more than requested by the Governor. The funds are in a lump sum rather than restricted to a specific program to allow the State Homeless Coordinator to have the ability take decisive action and use the funds where they are most needed.
They also appropriated $1 million for matching funds to the Hawaii Tourism Authority for homeless related projects. The nonprofit Hawaiʻi Lodging and Tourism Association will distribute the money for programs in resort areas.