Hawaii governor declares state of emergency for homelessness

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Hawaii Governor Sets Aside $1M For State's Homeless People

HONOLULU (AP) -- Hawaii Gov. David Ige has declared a state of emergency to deal with the state's homelessness crisis just days after city and state officials cleared one of the nation's largest homeless encampments.

The move will help the state speed up the process of building a homeless shelter for families, and the state is considering four possible sites, Ige said at a news conference Friday.

"We are making sure that we have options for those who are homeless to move into an emergency shelter, and the biggest deficit in the system is shelter space for families," Ige said. "So the emergency proclamation would allow us to stand up shelters for families in an expeditious manner."

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Hawaii saw a 23 percent increase in its unsheltered homeless population between 2014 and 2015, and a 46 percent increase in the number of unsheltered families, said Scott Morishige, state homelessness coordinator.

The state has identified $1.3 million to expand services to homeless individuals and families, Morishige said. In addition to a new shelter, the money also would go to the state's Housing First program, which provides homes and services to chronically homeless individuals without requiring them to get sober or treat mental illness first, and programs that help families pay deposits and rent.

The new transitional shelter the state is envisioning would house about 15 families at a time, Morishige said. Two of the sites under consideration are in Kakaako, the neighborhood where the large homeless encampment was cleared, and the other sites are in Liliha and near Sand Island.

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Hawaii governor declares state of emergency for homelessness
A homeless boy watches as a tent burns in the middle of the street in a large homeless encampment in the Kakaako neighborhood of Honolulu as city officials sweep the area, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015 in Honolulu. Honolulu city crews are clearing the final section of one of the largest homeless encampments in the nation, once home to hundreds of people. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz)
Loveleen Mori, 27, a homeless woman living in a large encampment in the Kakaako neighborhood of Honolulu, holds her dog as she tries to figure out where to bring her belongings as city officials start to sweep the camp, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. Honolulu city crews are clearing a major chunk of the encampment that once was home to hundreds of people. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz)
Vito Talo stands outside the structures he calls home on Ohe Street on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, in Honolulu. Talo's street is among those in a homeless encampment that are going to be cleared in a little more than a week. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced Thursday that enforcement of a rule that prohibits storing property on sidewalks will begin on the outer edges of the camp on Sept. 8. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz)
Firefighters extinguish a burning tent in a large homeless encampment in the Kakaako neighborhood of Honolulu as city officials sweep the area, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015 in Honolulu. Honolulu city crews are clearing the final section of one of the largest homeless encampments in the nation, once home to hundreds of people. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz)
A sign warning campers of the closure of a section of Kakaâako Park is seen, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015 in Honolulu. City officials are clearing an area on the outskirts of one of Honolulu's largest homeless encampments. City maintenance crews in a section of Kakaako began enforcing the city's rules against leaving personal property on sidewalks. Most people living in the area had already left by the time crews arrived. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
A man pushes a shopping cart through a closed section of Kakaako Park, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015 in Honolulu. City officials are clearing an area on the outskirts of one of Honolulu's largest homeless encampments. City maintenance crews in a section of Kakaako began enforcing the city's rules against leaving personal property on sidewalks Tuesday. Most people living in the area had already left by the time crews arrived. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
Maintenance crews remove and dispose of unattended property from an area near Kakaako Park, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015 in Honolulu. City officials are clearing an area on the outskirts of one of Honolulu's largest homeless encampments. City maintenance crews in a section of Kakaako began enforcing the city's rules against leaving personal property on sidewalks Tuesday. Most people living in the area had already left by the time crews arrived. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2015 file photo, signs posted in Chuukese and Marshallese announcing the beginning of sidewalk nuisance and stored property enforcement are posted to a palm tree in Kakaâako Park in Honolulu. Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union say the group will sue Honolulu over the way city officials are clearing out homeless encampments. The attorneys say they plan to file a lawsuit Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
A sign sits outside a homeless familyâs tent in the Kakaako neighborhood of Honolulu as city crews prepare to sweep the area, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. Honolulu officials began the final sweeps of what was one of the largest homeless encampments in the nation, tearing down structures that have been home to some for over a year. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)
Tony Nao, 39, tries to figure out where to go before city crews cleared what was left of his home on a sidewalk Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Honolulu. Nao is one of hundreds of people who lived in the encampment over the past year, and city crews were clearing the final sections of the camp. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz)
A sign questioning Hawaii Gov. David Igeâs commitment to helping the homeless and another explaining the aloha spirit sit in the street as homeless people pack their belongings ahead of a final day of sweeps in a large homeless camp, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, in downtown Honolulu. Officials began the final sweeps of what was one of the largest homeless encampments in the nation Friday morning, tearing down structures that have been home to some for over a year. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz)
A homeless man who had been living in a large encampment in the Kakaako neighborhood of Honolulu pushes his bleongings away from the camp as city officials sweep the area, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015 in Honolulu. Honolulu city crews are clearing the final section of one of the largest homeless encampments in the nation, once home to hundreds of people. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz)
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The recent clearing of the Kakaako homeless encampment could be used as a model in other parts of the state, Ige said. By coordinating with service providers, more than half of the estimated 300 residents of the encampment, including 25 families, were moved into shelters and permanent housing, the governor said.

"They definitely are off the streets and in a better situation where we are in a position to provide them services that will help us move them permanently out of the state of homelessness," Ige said.

Meanwhile on Friday, crews were installing converted shipping containers for Honolulu's latest homeless shelter on a gravel lot on Sand Island. The rooms in the first units were designed for couples and are 73 square feet.

"If they're living in tents now, the individual units are going to be just as large or larger," said Chris Sadayasu, asset management administrator for the Honolulu Office of Strategic Development.

The rooms, which were made from new shipping containers, each have a window and a screen door for ventilation. The structures are insulated, and the roofs have white reflective coating, and an awning will provide shade for relaxing outside, said Russ Wozniak, an architect and engineer from Group 70, an architecture firm. The coating and insulation keep the units about 30 degrees cooler than they would otherwise be, Wozniak said.

"It's kind of as comfortable as you can get without mechanical air conditioning," Wozniak said.

A trailer on-site holds five bathrooms that each have a toilet and shower, and there's a separate portable toilet and shower that are accessible to the disabled.

When completed in December, the shelter in an industrial part of Honolulu will temporarily house up to 87 clients at a time.

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