5/24/2017 More homeless, more creative housing

May 24, 2017 | 76° |  Check Tra c

Editorial| Island Voices

More homeless, more creative
housing
By Stephany Sofos
Posted May 24, 2017
May 24, 2017

CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

Homeless structures line Iwilei Road to King Street.

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5/24/2017 More homeless, more creative housing

After being accosted by a homeless woman recently, I decided to do research on our
homeless issue and here’s what I learned.

First, I believe the state’s “Point in Time” counts are inaccurate. A 1993 “Hawaii
Investor” magazine cover story stated our homeless population was almost 8,000 then;
in 2016, the count was 7,921; and in 2017, it is now 7,220.

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Scott Morishige, our state’s homeless coordinator, stated that we placed 2,000 people
in housing in 2015, and another 3,000 in 2016. So the actual number of homeless
before the government stepped in was approximately 12,220. This tracks with my
statistical counting dating back to 1993, which would put our statewide homeless
population up to 13,500.

As I continue to watch the new bodies coming through my neighborhood of Waikiki, I
would believe my counts are more believable and I think many would agree there has
been an exponential increase of people living on the streets for the past 24 years.

Second, unfortunately, this condition is now nancially consuming us. We are spending
millions of dollars yearly to assist these people, most of who will never contribute to
our tax base.

And while we know homelessness can be attributed to ve major issues — lack of
education and of jobs, drug use, cost of living, and lack of a ordable housing — there

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5/24/2017 More homeless, more creative housing

is now a new crisis looming. It is the baby boomers who are retiring without any
means to support themselves.

Kimo Carvalho of the Institute for Human Services has stated the largest-growing
segment of homelessness is now the elderly.

A 2014 U.S. Federal Reserve report showed 70 percent of all retirees have less then
$1,000 in savings, and 58 percent have less then $10,000 in retirement funds and rely
on Social Security to take them through their nal years. Sadly, with the costs of living
and housing increasing, more seniors are nding they cannot eat and keep renting and
are ending up houseless. Many are alone or their families cannot help them.

So what do we do to resolve this current condition?

Foremost, we all have to agree we are one community and in this crisis together. It is
not acceptable to allow people to live in squalor under bridges, in parks, streets and
mountains, and say to ourselves “as long as they are not in my back yard and don’t
bother me, let them live their lives.” We cannot legitimize their living arrangements by
publishing maps of their camps. We cannot allow illegal camping on public properties
and using open spaces as toilets.

We need to nd new ways to build temporary housing.

Government needs to open up industrial spaces for residential use or allow owners to
convert warehouses into housing units. Maybe allow Quonset huts again, which were
once staple housing. What about manufactured or prefab units or mobile home parks?

Permanent housing can be built later when the money is found, but this temporary
housing will immediately get people o the streets.

We must act now because if my statistical analysis is correct, and signi cant action is
not taken to provide for housing, then in 10 years there could be a homeless
population in the 35,000 to 40,000 ranges living on our streets. This would be like a
cancer consuming our very existence, destroying our businesses and the fabric of our
lives.

As a keiki o ka aina, I was raised to always be a part of the community and assist when
needed. It is now the time to help our less fortunate people and our aina. Will you
stand with me so we can create a better future?

Stephany Sofos is a real estate broker, appraiser and author of “Untold Stories of
a Real Estate Diva.”

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5/24/2017 More homeless, more creative housing

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