Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2022 |
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Bill 111 will help end homelessness
I am writing in response to a letter regarding Councilman Aaron Chung’s proposed Bill 111. The writer questioned the need for affordable housing to be prioritized and instead wanted to focus on citations and arrests for things like loitering and littering for those experiencing homelessness.
A recent study determined that 42% of Hawaiians are what is known as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). In other words, neighbors and community members who are working, sometimes more than one job, often have families, and are living with no reserves for emergencies and financially vulnerable when hardships happen. The lack of affordable housing on Hawaii Island increases the likelihood that families facing any emergency, natural disaster, or financial set back, are at much greater risk of becoming homeless. Programs implemented during COVID-19 response addressed basic need for housing through stimulus money, emergency rental assistance, and eviction moratoriums, which prevented hundreds of families from becoming homeless. These programs are now coming to an end. Families who used these programs were able to access funds to pay rent until the crisis had passed, and their employment situations stabilized. However, the cost of housing has only increased during this period and their vulnerability remains.
Often when people talk about the “homeless situation” they are talking about community members who are visible unhoused. They do not see the hundreds of people living unstably; in temporary living programs, shelters, staying with ohana, or living out of their cars. The trauma of living homeless affects families, and experiencing homelessness has long lasting effects, especially on families with children. Supporting this bill will provide stable, affordable housing, along with supportive services, and can help us end homelessness in Hawaii.
Taking a giant step
I applaud the Hawaii County Council for acting now to stem long-term issues for our keiki with Bill 111.
Bill 111 would set aside 75% of the tier 2 property tax raised on second homes appraised over $2,000. These funds could go to increasing the housing inventory for our families struggling to make ends meet on two incomes. It could also be used for additional supportive services and housing for those who struggle with mental health issues and drug addictions.
Studies show that children who are homeless for even one day can grow up with serious health problems both physical and mental. Families just don’t wake up one day to realize they are homeless. Illness, job loss, stress, PTSD, lead up to sleeping on couches, in cars along the highway, in areas not meant for human habitation. Young people who do not have stable housing trade housing for sexual favors. Many do not know they have been trafficked until it is too late when they realize they are now addicted to drugs to block out the bad memories.
The answer is not to criminalize homelessness but to go back to what causes it and solve those problems. What causes homelessness? Lack of affordable housing.
What causes our economy to grow? The innovations of our next generations who grow up in a healthy stable environment, who stay on our island to work and raise their families. Bill 111 will go through a second reading before it becomes law. Let’s support our county council for taking a giant step to address systemic issues in our community.
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