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Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The County of Hawai'i plans to clean out homeless encampments on county properties and started Wednesday morning at
Hale Halawai Beach Park in Kailua-Kona. County oceanfront properties in the Kaʻū area are leased at Punalu'u, and
owned at Kawa, Honu'apo and Miloli'i. Photo from County of Hawai'i

CLEANING OUT HOMELESS CAMPS ON COUNTY PROPERTIES is a move that Hawai'i County is willing to make, according to an announcement detailing a sweep early Wednesday at Hale Hālāwai on Ali'i Drive in Kailua-Kona and a plan to move on to clean out the encampment around Kona gym and pool.
    The large-scale operation involved substantial resources, including the dedicated participation of County Kona maintenance staff, a significant contingent of Hawaiʻi Police Department Community Policing Officers , and vehicles to transport refuse to county refuse facilities. Mayor Mitch Roth collaborated with Hawaiʻi County Department of Parks and Recreation, Office of Housing and Community Development and state Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement.
Belongings of homeless people were taken to
a 40-foot container at a county baseyard.
Photo from County of Hawai'i
    The sweep was called a "park rules enforcement operation." A statement from the Mayor's office said, " "The operation aimed to address the homeless encampments within and around the park facility, falling under the jurisdiction of the County and presenting unsafe and unhealthy conditions. Roth said, "We understand that enforcement cannot always be the answer, but we also have to ensure that our parks are safe for our local families, especially our keiki, to enjoy. Our goal is to continue working with our on-island service providers to get folks the help they need. We have made and will continue to make significant investments in addressing homelessness islandwide and are steadfast in our commitment to building a sustainable Hawaiʻi Island where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and succeed."
     Efforts by homeless outreach specialists, under the direction of Office of Housing have been ongoing to conduct outreach to individuals. According to the Mayor's statement, "Preliminary assessments indicate that approximately half of the individuals will be open to accepting the offered services."
    To ensure the proper handling of personal property that individuals cannot take with them, Roth directed the placement of a 40-foot Matson container at the County Parks' Kona base yard. "The non-perishable, non-hazardous, and non-junk property will be meticulously inventoried and stored for a period of 30 days before any necessary disposal."
    Upon completion of the operation, all encampments, unauthorized campers, and individuals establishing residence within the County park facility will no longer be present, says the County statement. "Mayor Roth's focus is on restoring the park's intended purpose and creating a safe and welcoming environment for all residents and visitors."
    The statement quotes citizen Jerome Kanuha saying, "When I look along our coastline along Aliʻi Drive, our beaches, our wahi pana, all I see is ʻopala (trash) these days, and it's just getting worse. That's not safe. It's not healthy – not for our local families, our keiki. As a community, we applaud Mayor Roth for hearing our plea and taking action to tackle this issue with aloha and humanity while putting our keiki first."
The County and partners clean up beach parks so locals and visitors
  can enjoy clean and safe facilities. Photo from County of Hawai'i
    The Mayor emphasized the importance of upholding park rules and "prioritizing the well-being of our community. This park rules enforcement operation is a testament to an ongoing commitment to address the issue of homelessness while maintaining the quality of our public spaces."
    Susan Kunz, who heads Office of Housing and Community Development, expressed gratitude for the partnership and coordinated effort in this operation. "OHCD acknowledges the need for time to allow service providers to engage with those affected and ensure housing and support for as many individuals as possible."
    The Roth administration has executed contracts with 13 nonprofits for 16 projects, receiving $7.5 million in grants through the Homelessness and Housing Fund. Furthermore, an additional $18 million has been allocated for the Affordable Housing Production Program, which is currently accepting proposals until June 30.
    The first phase of the Kūkuiola Emergency Shelter and Assessment Center in Kailua-Kona is underway, with mass grading in progress. This phase includes 16 emergency shelter units, and vertical construction is scheduled to commence in early 2024.
    The statement from the County says, "Mayor Roth and the County are confident that these ongoing programs, substantial investments in addressing homelessness and affordable housing through the establishment of the Homelessness and Housing Fund and the Affordable Housing Production Program,
and the development of dedicated projects like the Kūkuiola Emergency Shelter and Assessment Center will contribute to reducing the number of Hawaiʻi Island residents experiencing homelessness and create a more sustainable future for the County of Hawaiʻi moving forward."

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COUNTY OF HAWAI'I SEEKS FEEDBACK ON ITS INTEGRATED CLIMATE ACTION PLAN,  with June 1 the deadline. A statement from the County says, "The ICAP is a cross-departmental effort that charts the County's responsibility to reduce its contribution to global climate change and make its services and facilities resilient to the effects of a changing climate. The ICAP identifies actions the County can take and will be used as a tool to hold the County accountable for climate action. The County of Hawaiʻi encourages all residents to review the ICAP and provide feedback through Konveio, an interactive online platform." The link to the Konveio site is cohplanning.konveio.com.

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PAUBOX SCHOLARSHIPS FOR NATIVE HAWAIIANS' deadline to apply is May 31. The primary objective of the Paubox Kahikina STEM Scholarship is to encourage Native Hawaiians to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
    The scholarship is recurring annually. In other words, recipients receive $1,000 per year until they
graduate. Applicants must be Native Hawaiian, pursuing a STEM-related major, enrolled in an accredited college or university and be willing to annually publish content on the student's college journey.
    Paubox Kahikina STEM Scholarship is named after Paubox Founder Hoala Greevy’s grandmother, Mabel Kahikina Mansfield (Pohina). Greevy grew up in Hawai'i but founded a tech company in San Francisco focusing on marketing services for health institutions. He has about 50 employees.
    About two dozen scholarships are already being renewed each year, said Greevy. He said he expects about ten new scholarship recipients to be added this year. See the application at https://scholarsapp.com/scholarship/kahikina-scholarship.

WITH MEMORIAL DAY HOLIDAY WEEKEND COMING UP, Hawai'i Police Department is urging people to use seatbelts. It's Click It or Ticket. Hawai‘i Island police along with state and local law enforcement agencies across the country will be issuing tickets to drivers who choose not to buckle up. In Hawai’i County, the fine for not wearing a seatbelt is $102 per person. During 2022 in Hawai’i County, four people were killed as a result of a vehicle crash in which they were not wearing a seatbelt. So far this year, 33 percent, three of the nine people killed on Hawai‘i Island as a result of vehicle crashes were not wearing their seatbelts.
    “People have to understand that buckling up is the simplest thing you can do to limit injury or save your life during a crash,” says Torey Keltner, program manager of Hawai‘i Police Department’s Traffic Services Section.

    “We see the results of not wearing a seat belt all the time. Officers see the loss of life far too often that very likely could have been prevented. There’s no good excuse…Just wear a seat belt.”
    According to NHTSA, in 2021, there were 11,813 unbuckled passenger vehicle occupants killed in
crashes in the United States. That same year, 57 percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed at night (6 p.m.–5:59 a.m.) were not wearing their seat belts. That’s why one focus of the Click It or Ticket campaign is nighttime enforcement.
    According to HPD, men not wearing a seat belt are more likely to be killed in a car crash than women. In fact, nearly twice as many males were killed in crashes as compared to females in 2021. Of the males killed in crashes during that same year, more than half, 54 percent, were unrestrained. For females killed in crashes, 42 percent were not buckled up.
    No matter the type of vehicle, wearing a seatbelt is the best defense against impaired, aggressive, and distracted drivers, says HPD. "Even if your car has airbags, the safest way to ride is properly buckled up. It’s simple. Always place the shoulder belt across the middle of your chest and away from your neck, and place the lap belt across your hips, not your stomach. You should never put the shoulder belt behind your back or under your arm. When purchasing a new car, be sure to check that its seat belts fit you. Remember: every trip, every time, buckle up."