The governor of Hawaii has declared a state of emergency over the rampant homelessness in the tropical state. The proclamation will allow the state to fund the immediate construction of new homeless shelters as well as other programs that will open housing to the needy. The move follows the lead of Los Angeles, who declared a state of emergency in September 2015.

Governor David Ige released a statement saying “Homelessness remains a serious issue in every county throughout the state.” Homelessness is far from a new issue in the Aloha state, where housing prices limit the options for struggling individuals. Hawaii has the highest rate of homelessness per capita of any state in the country with 465 homeless individuals per 100,000, according to a press release. The proclamation comes after $1.3 million was identified to fund the efforts.

The move will help the state speed up the process of building a homeless shelter for families and the state is considering four possible sites. In addition to a new shelter, the money also would go to the state’s Housing First program, which provides homes and services to chronically homeless individuals without requiring them to get sober or treat mental illness first, and programs that help families pay deposits and rent.

The new transitional shelter the state is envisioning would house about 15 families at a time, Morishige said. Two of the sites under consideration are in Kakaako, the neighborhood where the large homeless encampment was cleared, and the other sites are in Liliha and near Sand Island.

The recent clearing of the Kakaako homeless encampment could be used as a model in other parts of the state, Ige said. By coordinating with service providers, more than half of the estimated 300 residents of the encampment, including 25 families, were moved into shelters and permanent housing.

Hawaii saw a 23 percent increase in its unsheltered homeless population between 2014 and 2015, and a 46 percent increase in the number of unsheltered families. There were 7,260 homeless people in Hawaii at the latest count, meaning Hawaii has the highest rate of homelessness per-capita of any state in the nation. Travelling along any beachside route in Hawaii, makeshift tents line the routes about 20 ft from the water and usually just a few feet from the road.

Crews were installing converted shipping containers for Honolulu’s latest homeless shelter on a gravel lot on Sand Island. The rooms in the first units were designed for couples and are 73 square feet, about the size of a tent. The rooms, which were made from new shipping containers, each have a window and a screen door for ventilation.

The structures are insulated, and the roofs have white reflective coating, and an awning will provide shade for relaxing outside. The coating and insulation will keep the units about 30 degrees cooler than they would otherwise be. A trailer on-site holds five bathrooms that each have a toilet and shower, and there’s a separate portable toilet and shower that are accessible to the disabled. When completed in December, the shelter in an industrial part of Honolulu will temporarily house up to 87 clients at a time.

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