Thursday, September 29, 2005

Notes from September Meeting: "Working together to end homelessness in Hawaii"

Laura Theilen, Executive Director, Affordable Housing and Homeless Alliance

With the cost of housing steadily increasing throughout the islands of Hawaii, there is an ever-increasing need to address the issue of affordable housing for our community members. The Alliance, along with many other agencies throughout the islands have been working together to increase the number of affordable housing units available in the community while at the same time decreasing the number of those who experience homelessness.

The issue of homelessness is very complex and therefore requires multiple approaches to address this issue. Partners In Care is the homeless coalition on Oahu and works with all of the providers of services for those who are homeless. The Hawaii Policy Academy on Families Experiencing Homelessness focuses on systemic changes that must be accomplished in order to address family homelessness. The Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness works on addressing the needs of those individuals who are considered to be chronically homeless. There are other groups that focus on short-term approaches to addressing homelessness including the Solidarity With the Homeless group.

All of these groups are dedicated to the idea that homelessness can be prevented and ended. Through working at the Legislature and City Council to remove barriers that are often encountered by those experiencing homelessness and working with community members to address the various needs of those who are homeless we can end homelessness and prevent future homelessness. If you would like to get involved in one of these groups or would like more information on the issue of homelessness and affordable housing, please contact Laura E. Thielen at 845-4565.

Message from Thielen: "We won a little victory in regards to the city council resolution regarding affordable housing. Based on our encouragement not to reinstate the moratorium on requirements of developers to sell affordable units to those individuals in the target group, Councilwoman Marshall has decided not to hear the resolution [at this time.] It may come up at a later date and if it does, I will let you know so that you can pass it on to your constituency."

Saturday, September 03, 2005

President's Letter: September 2005 - If (When) Disaster Strikes Hawaii

President's Letter, Larry Geller

Breakfast table conversation at our place this morning: "Honey, if the tsunami sirens started sounding right now, are we ready for a disaster?" Response: "No."

We do have toilet paper, but we have no food or water put away, and while I know there are batteries, a flashlight and a portable radio around here someplace, I'd have to go digging to find them. By that time, we'd be looking at water rising outside the windows.

Moving from the personal, is Hawai`i ready for a disaster? How do we know? How do we check? Have we been given emergency directions recently on what to do? Sure, there's some stuff in the phone books, but these days, not everyone has a phone book and who reads them anyway.

On a Federal level, it's clear that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has let New Orleans and the Southern states down big time. It may be relevant that (according to the Boston Herald, September 3) "The federal official in charge of the bungled New Orleans rescue was fired from his last private-sector job overseeing horse shows." It appears that Mike Brown got his job, according to the report, because he was a leading GOP activist. He had no specific experience that would qualify him to head up FEMA.

We need to know who is in charge in Hawai`i and why we are not hearing regularly about disaster planning, including both what we need to do as individuals and what the state is doing. What will happen when power fails at hospitals, nursing homes, police stations and other facilities?

There are many significant questions to be answered, only a few of which have even been asked. For example, Senator Gordon Trimble has repeatedly questioned the wisdom of locating a biochemical laboratory facility in the Kaka'ako Peninsula, yet it is there, and we have no idea of the risk it poses in the event that a tsunami or powerful storm releases its biological toxins into the environment.

If there is any benefit to the tragedy still unfolding in New Orleans, let it be that it goads us into considering and improving our own preparedness.