Democrats are also working on a mental health bill.
Homeless people in Hawaii may soon have to receive mandatory mental health care if a bill proposed by the House Republican Caucus passes.
One of the bill’s backers, Rep. Diamond Garcia, said homeless people should be arrested and charged with trespassing or other crimes, or go to a mental health treatment center. As a Republican, he said Democrats keep pushing the issue at hand by giving homeless people the option to remain on the streets.
Democratic Rep. John Mizuno, chairman of the House Public Service Committee, said the Democratic Party has always viewed mental health as an important area.
A bill to provide more services for adult and adolescent mental health is likely to be in their majority package, he said. Proposals by Hawaiian Republicans, like the House GOP bill, are unlikely to pass in the Democratic-dominated legislature.
Many homeless people are living on sidewalks and camping in parks, such as Old Stadium Park and Moiliili Neighborhood Park, Garcia said. With tax dollars to fund park maintenance, residents should have the right to walk through parks safely and enjoy public recreation, Garcia said.
The state’s most recent point-in-time count for January 2022 showed an increase in the homeless population on the neighboring islands. Another count, conducted in March 2022, found 3,951 homeless people on Oahu. Garcia questioned the accuracy of the reports and believed they underestimated the true number of homeless people on the island, noting that he knew some people were not counted and that other unidentified homeless people may be hiding.
Gov. Josh Green differs from the plan proposed by House Republicans to tackle homelessness. His government plans to halve the number of homeless people by 2026 and effectively eliminate chronic homelessness by 2030. This year, the government plans to invest in creating 12 small family communities across the island.