The rate of homelessness the State of Hawai’i is a very serious issue and a cornerstone of my platform. But, there are different degrees of homelessness that range from persons that live on the couch of a close friend or family member…to those that live on the street. The most severe cases of homelessness can be seen throughout our district with unfortunate persons/families living on the street. What we must realize is that not every person is homeless for the same reasons and they are made up of all ages and backgrounds. Many of them are homeless due to mental health issues, cost of living, job loss due to the economy, or elderly that lost their retirement etc. Most people in Hawaii realize that they could be one or two paychecks away from being on the street. We must, as the people of Hawai’i, act to remedy this situation. Current programs are doing as much as they can with the limited funds, personnel and resources they have. Here are my thoughts on building off of what is already in place:
1) Strengthen Transitional Support of Children Aging Out of the System: The Current system in place is not enough to support the transition of young adults aging out of the system. Just giving information to the young adult that is aging out is no guarantee that they will follow through or be capable of following through on suggested measures such as programs to turn to once discharged from the Department of Education (DOE). I will support policies that call for increasing positions for Case managers that will guide them through the process along with current services and incentives for business owners to hire capable individuals within their scope of do-able tasks.
2) Community Outreach: Create a cooperative relationship between the State Legislature and community outreach groups. We need input from those who are on the front lines helping to handle this issue on a daily basis and ask them what policies they believe would have a positive effect in dealing with the various layers of the issue. Legislators must be willing to put aside personal or ideological bias. We must focus on data driven approaches to deal with and implement policies that best serve the community. For some with cognitive conditions this could mean entry into the State DVR (Department of Vocational Rehabilitation). Programs such as these should be well publicized and available.
3) Human Services: Housing First initiatives are important and as your State Representative I will champion, support and encourage all such policies. Many of our homeless o’hana have lost faith in the system and feel that there is nothing that the system can do for them. We should always strive to change that narrative. Efforts must be made to look for locations like many of the vacant and accessible buildings that can be converted to serve those affected by homelessness.
4) Mental Health Support Services: As mentioned, there are differences with each sub-group within the spectrum of homelessness. I want to work closely with the Department of Health Adult Mental Health Division (AMHD), and the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division (CAMHD). Both agencies are critical in providing metal health support as well as providing a conduit for persons needing case managers, therapists and other specialized support services.
5) Police Initiatives: I support policies that a call for the hiring of case managers to work alongside police and create mental health response teams that could be called to deal with severe cases that may not require the subject to be apprehended or go to jail, but possibility taken to a nearby support facility that can properly deal with subject’s with mental health issues. My idea is basically this: team up with local programs such as IHS and Safe Haven and when HPD responds to a person who they deem to possibly have a mental health issue they can reach out to these programs and ask for someone to come on scene and assist. These programs deal with the homeless population and have a more intimate knowledge and understanding as well as more possibly even know the individual and may be better suited to assist them (i.e. they may know that the individual needs to take or has forgotten to take their medication).