Homelessness A Growing Problem In Central Oahu

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz

In recent weeks, my office has been receiving calls regarding the homeless problem in Wahiawa and concerns relating to security and sanitation problems. Residents, businesses and others who work in the area have expressed various concerns regarding the hostility of some of the homeless people and the lack of concern relating to health issues.

My office has been in contact with the Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness (HICH) and the state Department of Human Services to seek solutions to the situation in Wahiawa. According to HICH, social service providers, along with state agencies routinely conduct sweeps and outreach in the communities to get individuals the help they need. The intent of the sweeps is to encourage the homeless to get off the streets. While these cleanups are effective, it is costly and uses money and resources that would otherwise be used for road maintenance and other public services.

Although various agencies have been trying to help the homeless population on Oahu, homelessness is a problem because of our high cost of living and a lack of jobs and affordable housing for which many of the homeless could qualify.

The Institute for Human Services was recently granted a contract with the City to do scattered site housing in the North Shore and Central Oahu areas. Scattered Site Housing grants enable local governments to address the most critical housing needs of very low-income families (incomes at or below 50 percent of the area median income).

Homelessness is not a single-solution problem. Many factors contribute to it, and we need to address both short-term and long-term solutions. The short term would be to encourage the homeless to seek assistance from organizations that could help them and provide shelter. The long term would be to create jobs and provide work force and affordable housing.

There are two initiatives I have been working on for Wahiawa and Central Oahu which I hope will be realized in the near future. One is the Whitmore Village Agricultural Development Plan, which proposes to resurrect the agriculture industry in Central Oahu, and the other is the Rural Economic Development Plan to revitalize rural communities through public-private partnerships. These plans are developed to boost the economy in Central Oahu, which has deteriorated with the demise of the plantations and the cutback in the military through deployments and reassignments.

For the upcoming session of the Legislature, as chair of the Committee on Economic Development and Housing, I will be working on legislation that will help ensure that implementation of the plans can proceed. I also want to be assured that state agencies are in a position to assist the homeless and those that foster economic growth are doing whatever they can to make it happen. As conditions improve economically, hopefully, so will the homeless issue.

For further information, concerns or questions, call 586-6090 or email sendelacruz@capitol.hawaii. gov.