Spin Zone: Where Hawaii’s leaders face off

February, 2007

Q: What key things can DEMOCRATS and REPUBLICANS do this legislative session to help the homeless in Hawaii?

Democrat: REV. BOB NAKATA, former state legislator

First, the existing stock of affordable work-force housing needs to be preserved and expanded. Kukui Gardens, for example needs to be preserved, as well as all of the affordable housing projects of the city and county of Honolulu.A: Significant strides have been made in the past two years in addressing the homeless crisis in Hawaii. Most importantly, a much more compassionate attitude has developed toward those who are without homes. The realization that rapidly rising rents are fueling the increase in homelessness, and that a high percentage of the homeless are children, has brought about this change in attitude. This has helped in the creation of emergency, transitional and supportive housing programs. Government at various levels has become more supportive of such programs and citizen volunteers have poured forth. However, much more needs to be done.

Second, while the Rental Housing Trust Fund has been significantly strengthened, the crisis is sufficiently grave that even more funds need to be provided, fostering a viable nonprofit housing development sector. The city’s permitting process needs to be sped up for work-force housing. Without additional housing units for people to move into, rents will continue to rise.

Third, the ongoing process of repair and maintenance for public housing must be made more efficient. Improved planning will help to avoid more major and costly repair situations in the future.

Fourth, existing programs for the homeless, including rent subsidies, need to be continued and strengthened.

This crisis has been creeping up on the state over many years, and the solutions will take time as well. Allowing these problems to continue threatens the existence of the middle class in Hawaii.

Republican KYMBERLY PINE, state representative, 43rd district

A: The worst thing Republican and Democrat government officials can do for the homeless is to continue to give out handouts. A life of receiving handouts guarantees that a person will never be able to take care of himself. He will forever be dependent on someone else to give him what he needs to survive.

One day a constituent called me and said she was about to become homeless. She said she needed help, so I took her in, along with her two teenage children. She stayed with me for three months, until she found another place.

Over those months, we talked about how her working at a fast-food restaurant at minimum wage wasn’t enough to afford her own place. I showed her countless jobs in the newspaper that paid better and for which she was qualified. For some reason, she insisted on calling Section 8 housing as her only way out, despite the year-and-a-half wait to get in. Her mother lived with her in Section 8 housing and on welfare. She had been conditioned to believe that she could only survive with the government’s help.

While the state is building more homeless shelters and affordable housing than ever before, we cannot stop there. Democrats and Republicans must agree to make it a requirement for those staying there, depending on their reasons for homelessness, to go through intensive onsite drug treatment programs, psychological counseling and job training.

Once homeless people achieve a level of independence, have jobs and affordable housing, they need instilled in them the belief that they can do even more. They, too, can live the American dream, because they, too, deserve it. Depending on government won’t get them there. Depending on themselves will.

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