This Friday, July 24, 2020 the Maui County Council will have First Reading on a Commission on Healing Solutions for Homelessness. Over the last four months the agencies who receive Maui County funds have struggled to deal with the vulnerable population of houseless, homeless and those living in their cars. Early COVID alarm prompted erroneous citations being given out at all the parks that were suddenly closed by the county and state. The population who relied on these facilities have congregated in a few key locations to avoid ticketing and the fines that come with them. Encampment sweeps are constantly being argued as unlawful.
During a pandemic it is in the purview of the Department of Civil Defense and the Department of Health to provide shelter and provisions. Minimal has been done to date. The County has done mediocre to nothing in making up the difference of what the State has failed. A lawsuit has been filed on compliance failure to provide basic needs.
It has been by the protection of key community communicators that this population has been able to barely survive. The few police reports and incidents fair in comparison to the consistency of community voluntary, in-the-field monitoring that helped avert disturbances.
The County relies on the input of the Maui Homeless Alliance group to provide status indicators. In the past four months the meetings have been general in nature, poor in factual data presented and exhibited severe lack of follow through. The schematics in which island homeless data was collected in the Bridging The Gap program initiative ‘Point In Time’ count is not true representation of the real statistics of Maui County homelessness.
Some County monies are budgeted to serve the most vulnerable population. Family Life Center is in the center of the funding loop. Department of Social Services makes referrals to this organization for supplemental emergency funding.
Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Center is County run. Both have representatives that are in the Maui Homeless Alliance group and are information contributors. While not as vocal, others in the group represent other areas of respective work and provide intermittent reports when applicable including the Maui County Department of Human & Housing Concerns.
In a relating matter, the Department of Housing and Human Concerns department was faced with the introduction of bifurcating the department into Department of Housing and a separate Department of Human Concerns. This was not supported by the existing Department head.
The proposal to introduce a Commission on Healing Solutions for Homelessness is appearing to be threatening to the agencies and departments that would have an oversight commission panel of this nature. The last Homeless Alliance meeting was consumed by discussing reasons against it. It was an unfortunate waste of time considering Maui County has just received $67 Million in COVID Cares Act money. Rather, a discussion on how to best assess and disperse monies appropriately would have been a more conscious use of time.
The increasingly difficult times and multi agency and government failures polarizes the need for a Commission on Healing Solutions for Homelessness. It is not meant to stop what is being done by agencies to date, it’s about filling those gaps that these entities cannot or do not want to manage. Specific to an election year is a whole other myriad of struggling of ballot delivery within the population of unsheltered.
County of Maui is not alone in trying to solve like problems and implementing solutions. The continental United States is also addressing these issues with The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and Housing Not Handcuffs trying to assist on every corner. In Hawai‘i, we have an advantage to consider island style solutions including traditional hale and filling the great desire for farm housing.
The additional $67 million dollars in Maui COVOD Cares monies is an added layer of concern. The $44.5 million set aside for Public Safety and Community Services needs to be spent wisely and new and improved strategies must be considered. In the time given to consider different approaches and creative solutions, the organizations that receive County monies have restricted themselves to the status quo coordinated entry system that is corroded with obstacles and has failed to reach the larger population in need.
Without traveling down a fatal memory lane, it must be understood that the County has not always had blurry vision in allocating monies in this subject area. However, the compounding affects of one size fits all appropriations has resulted in a failure to deliver far too long. There is a great need to improve the vision of systemic change needed. We need more attention on this sector of our residents and having an eleven person panel, a Commission on Healing Solutions for Homelessness, will only help this crisis evolve to one of a productive space.
Subject Related Link Library: