This year’s City Council actions on the City’s FY 17 operating and CIP budgets (via Ordinances 16-14 and 16-15) propose to tackle complaints about the increased numbers of homeless individuals with mental health and chemical dependency issues or more aggressive/violent behavior took a different approach to prior years’ large infusions of CIP funding for City-sponsored permanent supportive housing.
Ordinance 16-15 includes appropriations for a more targeted approach for the Downtown/Chinatown area with:
- $2 million for an Iwilei Hygiene Center (plans, design construction of public restrooms, showers and laundry facilities),
- $18 million for Community Revitalization Initiatives (including Navigation Centers like Hale Mauliola, workforce/affordable housing and other community-focused projects),
- $5.6 million for Housing Partnership projects that develop or preserve affordable and permanent supportive housing in partnership with state agencies and qualified non-profit housing developers.
My June 2016 newsletter included a lengthy discussion of the Seattle “Urban Rest Stop,” which our Iwilei hygiene center is based upon. City/state agencies recently announced the purchase of a Kuwili warehouse site for development into a hygiene center and permanent supportive housing with appropriate wrap-around services for its tenants.
Councilmembers Menor, Kobayashi and I also visited Seattle’s DESC Crisis Solutions Center, Crisis Clinic and roughly 7-8 permanent supportive housing complexes and “Tiny House” villages in June.
We were particularly impressed by the operations of the Seattle Crisis Solutions Center, and believe that a comparable facility in Honolulu can help to reduce the number of homeless individuals on Downtown/Chinatown sidewalks. The Seattle center is funded by the City of Seattle and provides rapid stabilization, treatment, and referrals for up to 46 individuals at a time. The primary goal is to divert individuals impacted by mental illness and substance abuse from jails and hospitals by providing a more appropriate therapeutic alternative.
National evidence demonstrates that this program model reduces taxpayer expense by minimizing use of jail and hospitals, since the program receives referrals from first responders across the county, including police and medics.