Maui Discussion

Ask the Mayor: Are Safe Zones a Solution for Maui’s Homeless?

March 26, 2018, 2:00 PM HST
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Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the questions submitted to his staff.

Submit your own questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa at [email protected], (808) 270-7855 or mail them to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793.

Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask the Mayor” column.

Mr. Mayor,

Q: I know that the homeless situation throughout our island has been an issue for a while now. I have heard that O‘ahu was considering opening, if it is not already open, safe zones where homeless can stay.

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Is Maui considering this also?

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A: Although “safe zones” have been initialized in several municipalities across U.S., these efforts have often times resulted in creating more problems than solving them.

For example, just last month, city officials on O‘ahu reported that the homeless living in a “safe zone” on the west side were dumping human feces into nearby Pokai Bay, causing some officials to say it should be shut down.

The only “cure” for homelessness is getting the homeless into real homes, with four walls, a roof and a door that locks.

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The Maui County Homeless Program is working diligently with their partner service provider agencies to get unsheltered families and individuals into housing and provide the necessary wrap around services to keep them from re-entering life in our streets and parks.

Unfortunately, there is also a very visible population of homeless who, for a multitude of reasons, are not currently seeking any type of assistance.

Some are visiting, backpacking travelers; some choose to be squatters and stay on the streets. Others have mental health and/or substance abuse issues and refuse any type of services.

In a nutshell, the homeless situation is complex and not everyone wants to be housed.

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