Maui News

Legislature to Hold Hawaiʻi Homelessness Summit

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In an effort to address homelessness, the Hawaiʻi State Legislature will convene at the state capitol on Tuesday for the Hawaiʻi Homelessness Summit 2020.

Rep. Joy A. San Buenaventura, Chair of the House Committee on Human Services & Homelessness, and Sen. Russell E. Ruderman, Chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services, will lead the summit to evaluate existing programs funded by the Legislature and to embrace new solutions to homelessness.

Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation for homelessness in 2018 and recently signed a seventh supplementary proclamation extending the emergency relief period to Feb. 14.

In 2018, the Legislature allotted $30 million for six “Ohana Zones” on public lands, with three sites on O‘ahu and one site each on Hawaiʻi, Kaua‘i and Maui.

Each site must provide temporary housing, as well as social and health services that aim to transition homeless individuals to affordable housing.


Gov. Ige began releasing funding for various Ohana Zone projects this past January.The Legislature has provided funding for housing first programs since 2012 and in 2017 provided funding for the rapid re-housing program, family assessment centers, and homeless outreach and civil legal services.

“Our ultimate goal is to eradicate homelessness, not just manage it,” Buenaventura said in a press release.

According to Buenaventura, data indicates that the homeless population has decreased over the past few years.

“Helping those struggling with a disabling condition such as serious mental illness, substance use disorder, or physical disability is especially challenging…We also want to ensure that the funding commitment made by the Legislature is being used efficiently and effectively.”

Ruderman says that “homelessness is reduced in communities that focus on housing.”


“If we truly want to get people off the streets, we must provide them with a safe place as an alternative. With this summit we are asking questions and looking for solutions,” Ruderman added.

The informational briefing will first look into the current state of homeless in Hawai‘i and question if funding priorities for housing and services have successfully reduced homelessness.

The committees are also planning to determine if the new resources such as Ohana Zones, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), and medical respites have demonstrated efficacy.

The committees will then discuss how to define and measure success in ending homelessness followed by seeking to improve coordination with community partners.

A discussion on establishing new solutions, such as public-private partnerships, and questions by committee members will end the hearing.


Guest speakers will include:

  • Lt. Governor Joshua B. Green
  • Scott Morishige, Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness
  • Marc Alexander, Executive Director, Mayor’s Office of Housing (City & County of Honolulu)
  • Sharon Hirota, Executive Assistant, Office of the Mayor (Hawai‘i County)
  • Lori Tsuhako, Director, Dept. of Housing and Human Concerns (Maui County)
  • David Nakama, Homeless Program Coordinator, Dept. of Housing and Human Concerns (Maui)
  • Sharon Woodward Graham, Homeless Programs Coordinator, Kaua‘i County Housing Agency
  • Laura E. Thielen, Executive Director, Partners In Care (O‘ahu)
  • Brandee Menino, Chair, Bridging The Gap (Hawai‘i, Maui, Kaua‘iMatthew Doherty, former Executive Director, United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)

No public testimony will be accepted.

The hearing will be televised live on ‘Olelo channel 55 and aired via tape delay on the neighbor islands’ public television stations.

The hearing can also be watched live online here or on the House webcast page.

To see the complete hearing notification, click here.



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