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Big Island Residents Discuss Solving Homelessness Problems


KAILUA-KONA — Members of a Big Island community are discussing ways to deal with problems associated with its homeless population, a report said.

Residents and business owners in Kailua-Kona met May 22 to discuss issues such as crime and trash in public areas, West Hawaii Today reported Sunday.

Residents discussed options including increasing security and lighting in public places, stopping street panhandlers, and enacting ordinances to prevent sitting or lying on sidewalks and in public spaces.

"I am out there pounding the pavement every day trespassing people, calling the police," said Stefanie Gubser, who works for a property management firm. "We're dealing with the people who don't want the help or the services but want to run amok."

Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas told attendees she plans to connect residents, county officials and organizations on issues related to the homeless population.

Describing the current approach, Villegas said, "right now, it's like whack a mole — clear them out of here, they go there."

An environmental assessment is expected next month for Village 9, a project to provide 20 to 30 homeless emergency shelters and affordable housing components, said Sharon Hirota, an executive assistant to Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim.

Villegas said the project will enable police to separate members of the homeless population.

"Ideally, when Village 9 is built, it's going to be you've got to go there or you're going to jail," Villegas said. "Those who want help will be at Village 9 and those who do not will still be loitering, and in my mind that makes it a little easier to identify."

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