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State homeless coordinator says Legislature has an opportunity to provide significant help

Governor David Y. Ige
File - Scott Morishige, Governor's Coordinator on Homelessness, speaks at a press conference in August 2020

Gov. David Ige's coordinator on homelessness says the state Legislature has an opportunity to provide significant help in this area.

Scott Morishige says the Legislature should extend the Ohana Zones program — a transitional housing approach that is currently set to expire next year.

The state says the program has helped place more than 1,300 homeless people in permanent housing.

Morishige says other steps could actually prevent homelessness before it happens.

“The other thing that we're hoping to see come out of the Legislature is really continued historic investment in affordable housing. There’s one bill in particular, SB 2372, that currently includes an appropriation of $300 million for the rental housing revolving fund for affordable housing development," he says. "That really would go a long way in closing the gap in housing that we’re seeing — not just on Oʻahu, but statewide.”

Morishige says it’s encouraging that the recently released Point in Time count of homeless on neighbor islands showed a decline in family homelessness — and in particular a decline in unsheltered families with children.

The count also showed a slight increase in overall homeless numbers, especially among single adults.

Morishige also notes that the Family Assessment Center and the Next Step Shelter in Kaka’ako are slated to close and discussions are still ongoing on relocating those services.

This interview aired on The Conversation on April 25, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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