With the August 13 election day fast approaching, Mayor Caldwell held another party at the Sand Island homeless camp to announce its opening. Wait, didn’t we see this movie before? Yes, seven months ago, but nobody was running against him for mayor then.
Anyway, this was the “grand opening” and a chance to announce that the camp is a success. It took him nearly two years to open the camp since the idea was first floated in August 2014. And it’s only supposed to stay open for a maximum of two years. But the mayor now says “it is likely to keep running beyond that time frame.”
Who didn’t see that coming? The “temporary” Next Step shelter has been open for ten years now. The spill-0ver into the adjacent parks and streets, and the city’s bungled enforcement of reasonable rules against taking over sidewalks, pretty much wrecked the neighborhood to this day. The governor calls it an emergency and promised to quickly open a new shelter nearby, but it’s just not happening.
But give the city a break. They didn’t know about the soil contamination concerns and other issues when they first started talking up the Sand Island plan.
That was then, this is now. The camp, called Hale Mauliola, can accommodate 83 people at a time in recycled shipping containers outfitted with beds. It’s not run by the city, but by the Institute for Human Services, a contractor paid by the city that also runs shelters and provides free meals. The plan has continuously evolved.
Guests are supposed to stay at the camp for about 60 days before moving on, although at least one guy has been there for six months. The good mayor says the camp has “provided services” to 173 people since he announced its opening the first time, back in November of last year. About 60 have since been moved to other quarters, another 20 left on their own and 16 were kicked out for bad behavior.
It’s not clear where the 16 ended up but it probably wasn’t Kahala.
It’s also not really clear where the 60 ended up. We’re promised that it was “permanent housing” somewhere, but that seems to be in very short supply. If housing is readily available, why has that guy been at Sand Island for six months?
This operation, which includes various assistance services, costs the taxpayers about $800,000 per year plus the $500,000 or so to set up the temporary camp. If those numbers are accurate, we’re paying $2.1 million for two years. If we generously assume that the camp will house 500 people during its initial two-year lifespan, that boils down to $4,200 per guest for a 60-day stay, or about $70 a day. Not bad, but I really don’t believe those numbers.
It’s a start though, and I’m glad it’s working out for at least some of the people who need it. But it’s not enough, and I really don’t think the mayor or any other officials should be taking too many bows or milking it for their election campaigns.
Instead, they should be apologizing profusely for allowing the homeless situation to get so bad in the first place.