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Mayor Kim: Homelessness Remains a High Priority

March 24, 2017, 11:45 AM HST
* Updated March 24, 1:29 PM
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Mayor Harry Kim. Courtesy photo.

The growing homelessness problem on Hawaiʻi Island will remain an important focus for Mayor Harry Kim.

He shared his third-term priorities in a meeting with Big Island Now on Wednesday, March 22,

Since his December inauguration, Mayor Kim said he has been gathering the most current information on homelessness to understand how to address the problem effectively.

“We have to know what we’re dealing with before we know where to go,” he said.

Mayor Kim said the effort would be done as a “team,” involving local organizations as well as the state government.

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Since 2013, the homeless count has increased by 68% on Hawaiʻi Island, from 557 to 1,394, according to statistics provided by Hope Services Hawaiʻi.

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Mayor Kim expressed concern for the many families and children who are living without a permanent shelter, a sentiment he made public during his campaign.

Of further importance are the estimated 40% or more of residents who are at-risk of becoming homeless, said Mayor Kim, according to data he received. That translates to a staggering 80,000 people of the 200,000 residents living on Hawaiʻi Island.

“We have to address this problem in totality, not just the homeless side of it,” Mayor Kim said, “because it is a much more complex problem than that.”

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Mayor Kim wants a review of the planning, development and construction of housing to determine how homes can be built better, cheaper and faster so more people can afford it.

In his view, one of the key causes—and what Kim calls “the biggest problem facing the State of Hawaiʻi—is the gap between the haves and the have-nots.”

Mayor Kim also discussed another important issue—the ongoing Thirty Meter Telescope controversy on Maunakea.

“We’ve got to stop the confrontation of who wins and find other ways to settle our differences,” Mayor Kim said.

“I believe Maunakea can be and should be an international symbol: a monument for us to be better people, a monument of a quest for knowledge to be better people, and to make us better stewards of this land,” Mayor Kim said.

“I also believe that it can be a symbol to recognize the wrongs done to the people of the first Nation of Hawaiʻi—the Hawaiians,” he continued. “I believe it can bring forth the very big mistakes that were made in respect to their culture and their people, and to go forward from that.”

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