Finding Solutions For Hawai’i Homeless
When the Governor’s office reached out to the Hawai’i Association of REALTORS® (HAR) asking them to help the island to address it’s homelessness crisis, the association was quick to respond. “We know this is a very difficult and emotional issue for many people and through the efforts of our local REALTORS®, we hope to begin finding some light at the end of this tunnel,” says Hawai’i Association of REALTORS® (HAR) Government Affairs Director Myoung Oh.
Not long before contacting HAR, Gov. David Ige had issued an emergency proclamation to extend and expand the efforts of Hawai’i social service agencies to reduce homelessness. Gov. Ige initially asked HAR if they had a mailing list of landlords they could share. The governor’s office wanted to launch a mailing campaign that would make landlords aware of the newly expanded financial and social support available to renters who participated in the Housing Choice Voucher Program also known as Section 8.
Though the program helps renters who need financial assistance meeting the rent, many landlords still see accepting a Section 8 tenant as a risk. The hope was that by educating landlords about the full scope of social and economic support available to Section 8 renters, they would be more willing to open their doors to the homeless.
Oh and his fellow REALTORS® liked the idea of educating property owners, but felt that a face-to-face event would have a greater impact on the island’s landlords. HAR and the governor’s office worked together to host the first ever Landlord Summit on November 17, 2015. The pilot program was paid for without taxpayer monies through a grant from the National Association of REALTORS (NAR).
The free summit was held at the Pomaikai Ballrooms where Governor Ige delivered the opening remarks and Mayor Caldwell spoke at the end. Attendees were landlords and REALTOR® property managers who were already accepting Section 8 renters and could share their success stories. Perhaps most importantly, service providers and agencies were present with information about a variety of extended support programs, social services and more information about Section 8 and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) payments.
The half-day summit was an enormous success and surpassed expectations both in attendance and response. The summit went far to alleviate many landlord’s concerns about renting to homeless islanders, including some who may be struggling with addiction and mental health issues. Gov. Ige has asked the other islands to host their own Landlord Summit and to date, the REALTORS® Association of Maui and the Hawaii Island have taken the initiative to host their own island summit.