Democrats also have mental health legislation in the works.
Homeless people in Hawaii may soon have to undergo mandatory mental health care if a bill proposed by the House GOP caucus is passed.
One of the bill’s supporters, Rep. Diamond Garcia, said homeless people should either be arrested and charged with trespassing or other crimes, or taken to a mental health treatment center. As a Republican, he says Democrats are always allowing the problem by leaving open the option for the homeless to stay on the streets.
Rep. John Mizuno, a Democrat and chairman of the House Human Services Committee, said Democrats have always viewed mental health as an important area.
He said a bill targeting more adult and adolescent mental health services is likely to be seen in their majority package. Proposals by Hawaii Republicans, like the bill introduced by the House GOP, stand a slim chance of making it through a Democrat-dominated legislature.
Many of the homeless live on sidewalks and camp out in parks like Old Stadium Park and Moiliili Neighborhood Park, Garcia said. With taxpayers’ money funding the maintenance of public parks, Garcia said residents should have the right to walk safely through a park and enjoy public recreation.
The state’s most recent point-in-time census of January 2022 showed that the homeless population on neighboring islands has increased. A separate census conducted in March 2022 found that 3,951 people are homeless on Oahu. Garcia has questioned the accuracy of these reports, believing they underestimate the true number of homeless people on the islands, noting that he knows of some who have not been counted and that there may be other unidentified homeless people hiding.
Gov. Josh Green has a different plan to tackle homelessness than the one proposed by House Republicans. His government expects to halve the number of homeless by 2026 and effectively eliminate chronic homelessness by 2030. This year the administration plans to invest in the creation of 12 tiny home communities on the islands.