Hawai'i Superintendent of Schools Keith Hayashi shakes hands with a Nāʻālehu Elementary student on Monday,
when free school supplies were handed out to students. Photo by Iwalani Harris
|Nāʻālehu Elementary was the inspiration and the launch site of |
the new School Supply Subsidy Pilot Program on Monday.
Photos by Iwalani Harris
Kanuha explained, "What started as an effort to offset costs on families in Nāʻālehu has become a statewide endeavor thanks to the leadership and advocacy of Senate Committee on Education Chair Sen. Michelle Kidani; House Committee on Education Chair Justin Woodson; as well as HIDOE and Hawai’i State Teachers Association advocates."
He said he would also like to acknowledge the contributions of Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz and House Committee on Finance Chair Sylvia Luke for finding money in the budget to establish "what I hope to be a permanent program for Title I schools throughout our State. And of course Governor Ige for ultimately signing the bill in to law."
|DOE leadership, political leaders and school staff at Nāʻālehu join keiki to receive free school supplies. |
Photo by Iwalani Harris
She is a member of the Vibrant Hawai'i Committee on Homelessness and the West Hawaii Faith-Based Hui to End Family Homelessness and Community Alliance Partners. She writes:
On May 19-20, 20 people were moved from their encampments along Kuakini Highway in front of the Kailua-Kona Aquatic Center into Hope Services emergency shelters. The encampments were the result of a sweep earlier in the month of those sleeping in the bushes at Kona’s Old Airport Park.
During the intake process, the outreach team learned that all 20 individuals were local residents from Hawai'i. Fourteen identified as Native Hawaiian, four as Caucasian, and two as African-American. Several had jobs. Most had lost their homes because the rent had become unaffordable, or as a result of family issues.
The annual Point-in-Time Count held in January gives us an even larger snapshot of who are the homeless, and why they are living in places not meant for human habitation. On Jan. 23,
|At home or homeless near Punalu'u Black Sand Beach in a tent at Ninole. |
Photo by Julia Neal
The two most stated reasons (55%) that led to being unsheltered were conflicts with family or with housemates and inability to pay rent. Others told volunteers that they had lost their jobs, had a medical emergency in the family, or had a chronic disability. Some told volunteers they suffered from mental illness, had been incarcerated, or had substance addictions. One person shared that his house burned down. Another lost his land; another was saving money to buy land. For a few people, living unsheltered was preferable to being housed in an unsafe living situation. When asked “Did you move to Hawai'i within the past year?” Ninety-two percent of those who responded said no.
Although the Point-in-Time Count does not survey those who are sleeping on couches or in overcrowded housing, it’s important to consider them in conversations about housing policy. Many are on the precipice of losing their housing, and they live in circumstances that are harmful to their physical and mental health.
|Shirley David works with Vibrant Hawai'i|
and Saint Michael's on homelessness.
Photo from St. Michael's
With each response there is a story. You don’t have to be homeless to know that housing prices are skyrocketing, and inventory is at an all-time low. We all know people who moved away because their wages did not keep up with their rent or because their landlords sold the property, and they could not find anything in their price range. We all have family members who struggle with addictions or have lost everything due to a catastrophic illness.
Moving homeless people off the streets, doorways and beaches only moves the problem around. In order to reduce homelessness, it is important for us to look at these documented reasons people are homeless. Then we can address each one of the reasons. There are no quick fixes. It takes perseverance, dedication, money, and political will.
How can you help? You can help by supporting the efforts of our public officials who all know we do not have enough affordable housing and support services. You can help by insisting that our building code permit process is amended in a way that takes away roadblocks to affordable housing by lowering the cost of building. You can help by renting out your second homes long term if you are not using them. We all can help.
David notes that Vibrant Hawai'i’s mission is to empower the Hawai'i community by increasing equitable opportunities, shifting deficit narratives and systems, and implementing strategies that are developed and resourced by the community and reflect native intelligence. To learn more, visit www.vibranthawaii.org. Over the past two years, Vibrant Hawai'i's dedication to multisector collaboration and partnership has formed and supported multisector working groups focused on community-led solutions to address complex issues affecting the community: economy, education, health and well-being, resilience hubs, and housing.