Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Honolulu's stuggle to balance the needs of its homeless population against the needs of its tourist economy has drawn national attention again. The Hawaii Community Development Authority has given the 100 homeless residents of Kakaako until 1 pm today to dismantle their tent city. According to the New York Times:
Neil J. Donovan, the executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said the state was one of many trying to deal with the homeless through ordinances, like the one barring tents, rather than programs to create housing. “That’s just such a short-sighted approach,” Mr. Donovan said. “It’s all about a lack of affordable housing.” In 2009, the coalition named Honolulu the eighth meanest city in the country in its dealing with the homeless. Still, Mr. Donovan said Hawaii’s situation was particularly challenging: on an island with limited land, escalating property values have made affordable housing scarce.
I do think that Honolulu deserves some credit for thinking creatively about this problem. For example, the city has been using donated tour buses as transitional housing for homeless families. The tour buses have fewer rules than traditional shelters, yet still provide many of the things that the homeless really need - shelters, showers, and a secure place to keep their stuff.
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