Hawaii’s governor has signed an emergency proclamation to deal with the problem of homelessness, saying the state faces the country’s highest per capita rate of homelessness and more needs to be done to house the indigent.
Democratic Gov. David Ige said in a statement Friday that homelessness is particularly acute on the island of Oahu, the state’s most populous island, and that it has increased at an alarming rate over the last two years.
The governor and community groups have in the past said homelessness in Hawaii, which at last count had more than 7,600 people living unsheltered, stems in large part from its high cost of housing. The tourist haven has long been a destination for wealthy people from the mainland United States to buy homes.
Ige said under the emergency proclamation, $1.3 million has been earmarked to deal with homelessness and the money would be used to provide increased funding for programs to place unsheltered families and the chronically homeless into permanent homes.
The effort will include a transitional housing facility that will exist on a temporary basis to help the indigent.
“There’s still much work to do,” Ige said, adding Hawaii has the highest rate of homelessness per capita among the 50 states, with an estimated 465 homeless individuals per 100,000 people.
Earlier this week, authorities in Honolulu cleared a large homeless encampment in the Kakaako district, concluding a month-long effort that displaced dozens of people who had been living on the streets, according to local media.
Some of those people moved to shelters while others went to live on other streets, according to broadcaster Hawaii News Now. Honolulu officials have recently been converting shipping containers to house homeless people on state land.
Ige’s signing of an emergency proclamation to deal with homelessness, while unusual, has a precedent. In 2006, then Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, signed a similar proclamation.
Last month, officials in Los Angeles moved to declare homelessness a problem in the nation’s second largest city, which has an estimated 18,000 people living on the streets, and they announced plans to spend $100 million to combat it.
The $1.3 million in funds that Hawaii’s governor has identified to spend on homeless relief is from his office’s own budget. The state Legislature, which opens its next session in January, could vote to provide more funds for the effort.