|Maui County 2023 Safe Parking Pilot Project Tragedy Another Exercise in DeterminationExercise in Determination: OK, we’re fit already! Upon it’s inception, it was impossible to anticipate all the twists and turns or the shear amount of time and energy, and lack of will to keep this project on track – ultimately to be “shelved.” This was not a futile experience, as demonstrated in this timeline, for it shows the underside of how our political system can grab a positive headline while working in the opposite direction. In mid 2022, former Council Member Kelly King asked Share Your Mana (SYM) to support funding for a study in Kihei to assist those unhoused. We replied back, “The house is on fire! We need immediate action, not a study.” King promptly replied we should meet and create a project for the 2023 budget. Within weeks, the SYM Advisory committee, in partnership with a small team, were in King’s office and created this first of its kind pilot project that was placed into the budget for 200k and on its way.|
• Short Educational Video on the Maui Safe Sleeping Project
In June 2022, the budget was signed by former Mayor Victorino. On page 28, it highlights the “addition of a grant for the establishment of a safe zone or safe sleeping space for the houseless, $200,000.” The project language stated, “Grantee must consult with Share Your Mana prior to grant application” and was signed off by The Council and former Mayor Victorino’s office. History was being made to support the voices of those with lived experience actually shape this process. The language specified SYM was to be consulted prior to every applicant for the project.
During the July 14, 2022 Maui County Affordable Housing meeting, a compelling and historic moment was captured when Council Member Gabe Johnson called up courageous SYM advisory members as Resources in providing expert context for the project. It resulted in passage of AH 32 Bill 108 (2022), “for purposes of use of vehicles for human habitation in county lots.” Because a county parking lot was to be the location, the codes needed amending and our team was there to lend insight into the urgency.
There was no holding back on sharing my appreciation during my testimony (some of my most succinct).
Member King facilitated the necessary changes to the existing laws which prohibit overnight sleeping in parks. She brought the necessary legal changes forward and they passed through the Affordable Housing committee with majority votes to change park hours, remove a locked gate, etc. only to accommodate this project. The first hurdle was cleared.
Passing through the AH Committee, on August 5, Bill 108 (22-70) was then read by Chair Lee as a final bill in full Council. More compelling testimony supported this project. Designed to utilize existing infrastructure with privacy, the Council voted in favor. Mahalo also to our dedicated colleague Faith Chase’s testimony!
Next was to consult with the Parks Department and select a location while the Department of Housing and Human Concerns (DHHC) created a Request For Proposal (RFP) for agencies who wanted to bid on the project. When agencies would bid on the project, the SYM Advisor Committee would spring into action.
During this time, an email was created with the Parks Department and DHHC to discuss possible park locations. Share Your Mana was prepared and excited to meet to discuss the critical needs of this project, to enhance the opportunities for success with any agency applying for the grant.
You can imagine our shock when former Mayor Victorino held a surprise press conference on the morning of September 8, 2022 to announce the project had been given to a nonprofit without our knowledge or requirement to comment on the selected grantee. The conference made no mention of the already existing conversation between the Parks Department, council member King’s office & The SYM Advisory Committee.
Immediately upon witnessing this press conference, on September 20th, Council Member King with support from SYM put forth Resolution 22-216 to the County Council to reinstate it in its intended form and require the Mayor to honor the legal requirements and intention of this project as legally outlined in the budget. Unfortunately, only council members’ King, Molina, and Sinenci voted to return it to its proper trajectory. With the broad and confusing reinterpretation by Corporation Counsel and several Council Members unable to grasp the term “consult,” without a majority vote, it was allowed to veer off-track. Council Member King and SYM respectfully and openly challenged the legality of the decisions during the presentation of Resolution 22-216.
Council Member King and SYM left the meeting disheartened. It was clear the majority of the Council supported taking the project in a different direction. The intentional elimination of the voices of the SYM Advisory members, with lived experience best positioned to influence the success evaporated. Shortly thereafter, on October 13, 2022 SYM received an email from Cesar Gaxiola, Executive Director from the Cameron Center indicating the project was on hold.
Unbeknownst to SYM, on November 30, 2022 on the Commission for Healing Solutions for Homelessness, Director Lori Tsuhako from DHHC casually shared during her update that Corporation Counsel had again reviewed the process and “previously, as you recall an announcement was made that the project would be conducted at Cameron Center in their back parking lot” and in fact, “we were advised by Corp Counsel that the outreach work done with Cameron Center to secure use of their site did not meet the letter of the law in the terms of a solicitation so a formal solicitation will be issued very shortly. I have the draft RFP in my cue…” continuing, “The Department is just finalizing a request for proposals.”
As a present Commissioner, this was stunning. This was an acknowledgement that the Mayor had overstepped the law. Now, even with the majority of the Council supported by Corporation Counsel, quietly reversed their position. I was able to ask a question of Director Tsuhako, “Does that mean that Cameron Center will have to apply for the RFP, as well? …Yes…they will have to apply for the procurement, as well.”
Abracadabra: December 9th, Maui Now reports an Request For Proposal (RFP) has been issued for the Safe Sleeping Project and applicants must have submissions in by December 19, 2022. Anyone who has written grants knows that a 5 day work week window to apply for a County grant is not possible. Over 6 months of back-and-forth, if left in it’s original format this had a great chance of being activated and thriving. Now I can only shoulder shrug!
On January 26, 2023, Director Tsuhako announces in the Commission for Healing Solutions for Homelessness monthly meeting that the project has been shelved which to those in crisis = abandoned.
To every resident who truly believes that every human being requires a good night’s rest to function, we continue to keep an open mind, heart, and strive for solutions. Everyone knows this crisis is not about the ability to create “physical buildings” because we can do this. We need to desire and will. It is about changing our minds to help and not hurt our fellow neighbors, suspending our personal judgements and believing we can all rise together.
This information is dedicated to all who believe transparency AND coordination in process are required for success. Although I was unable to capture:
1. The hundreds of hours spent creating this timeline.
2. The amount of time managing the onslaught of questions.
3. Inaccurate concerns from confused community members, all the while tracking the shenanigans which pushed this off course…
Share Your Mana’s spirit is intact and we will continue on the path which demonstrates cooperation with all departments. When this is achieved, our collective quality of life will rise.
This journalistic adventure was brought to you by the dedicated community members who are determined to care for all with dignity and respect.
Lisa Seikai Darcy
Founder, Share Your Mana