Facing growing pressure about a lack of progress on homelessness and a wobbly bid for re-election in less than two months, the Mayor recently rushed to announce that the City and County of Honolulu will open a new state-of-the-art homeless services center in Iwilei. Someday. Hopefully soon. Real soon.
But for now, he can’t say when that will be, who will run the $6.3 million facility, or what its operations will really cost. Or even when the city will issue Requests for Proposals seeking contractors to perform the significant amount of remodeling work that’s needed to prepare the facility, or to operate it.
It sure doesn’t look like much of that will happen before election day.
And that begs a question: Will anyone actually do anything to remove, or even gently discourage, growing squatter encampments along Nimitz Highway and elsewhere in Iwilei, and deter the constant crapping in doorways and other unacceptable behavior that people have been screaming about?
Or will the talk of a great new facility become the basis for a great new excuse to do nothing in the meantime? Or at least until after the election?
Is that too cynical? Well, consider this.
One of the TV broadcasts announcing the Mayor’s plan included an interview with a woman in a wheelchair who complained that structures built illegally on the sidewalks just outside the new facility made it impossible for her to get by. She even demonstrated for the camera how illegal structures completely blocked her. And nobody did anything about it.
That’s right. The Mayor and a bunch of other officials were right there announcing their new plan but nobody had the sense, or the guts, to instruct the people who were illegally blocking the entire sidewalk right under their noses to immediately remove the blatant obstructions or watch the city do it for them. And, by the way, there’s already a big homeless shelter right around the corner.
Is it in any way unreasonable to require squatters who have seized control of public spaces to at least allow others to pass by? And maybe to stop crapping in doorways too? Is it any less reasonable to expect authorities to uphold some basic semblance of law enforcement and common sense? Is that really too much to ask?
Or are authorities now simply programmed to condone unreasonable and unacceptable conduct because it has become the new normal and they’re just not serious about doing anything about it?
Some neighbors and Iwilei business owners seem enthusiastic about the new facility, but others wonder if it will simply attract more homeless people to the neighborhood and enable them to take over more sidewalks and refuse to address their underlying substance abuse or mental health issues.
And let’s not forget that the governor declared a “State of Emergency” months ago and promised that a new homeless shelter would be opened very soon. It never happened, the site that was selected remains quiet and empty, the problems remain unaddressed, and nobody seems to know what the plan is.
Elvis had it just about right back in my salad days:
A little less conversation, a little more action please
All this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark