Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Homeless in Honolulu

A colony of tents and lean-tos housing homeless people near the waterfront in Honolulu is slated to be removed by city officials, leaving 100 or so homeless people with no where to go.

From the NYT:

“I understand that they are caught between a rock and a hard place,” Doran J. Porter, executive director of the Affordable Housing and Homeless Alliance in Hawaii, said of state officials. “This isn’t an appropriate place for lean-tos and tents.”

And Mr. Porter said he knew full well that state officials were under pressure from the business community. “My concern is that they need to have solutions of where these folks are going to go,” he said. “We can’t keep kicking them out of one place where they go to another. That’s why they are there in the first place: they were kicked out of Waikiki and the beaches. This has been going on for years.”

This is what happens in temperate climates. The homeless folks put up tents. They get kicked out. They move somewhere else and then get kicked out of there.

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.”

Taking tents down doesn't solve the problem.

Mr. Afituk, who like many of the homeless here came from Micronesia, said he and his family had been forced to move out of a one-room apartment after he lost a job last year. He said he was now working as a fire marshal at Pearl Harbor, but did not make enough to rent a home. “I can’t afford it,” he said. “It’s $1,200 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.”

There's a dearth of rental properties in most places these days, due in part to the increase in foreclosures. A shortage of housing in 2011 has been predicted. The problem is even more profound in tourist areas, where the wages are not comparable to the cost of living in those places. As seen in this story, the low wage worker in Honolulu is not able to afford housing. The budget for Community Development Block Grants to the states (grants that can help cities build affordable housing) is on the chopping block in the upcoming budget. This means more tents, more misery, and more families getting shuffled around. No solutions in sight.

cross-posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org

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