HONOLULU — Republican gubernatorial candidate Duke Aiona said Monday that Hawaii should create special courts for the homeless, allowing people charged with public intoxication or sleeping in closed parks to seek treatment instead of paying fines or spending time in jail.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s homelessness coordinator, Colin Kippen, told Hawaii News Now that a homeless court would fail to allocate resources properly.
About $25 million in cuts to services for homeless people with mental illnesses were made during former Gov. Linda Lingle’s administration, when Aiona was lieutenant governor, Kippen said.
Entire mental health programs ended between 2008 and 2010 in Lingle’s final years in office, said Janice Okubo, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health.
“Let’s not think about the cuts in programs, because we know we have that right now,” Aiona said. “Right now, what it is, is getting these people in these programs.”
Aiona did not have a cost estimate for the homeless court program, but he said the Legislature could set aside funding. The program could start with one judge handling homeless cases part time, he said. Aiona also wants judges to hold proceedings at parks and on sidewalks in trailers, which would need funding for facilities, gas and staff.
To help Hawaii’s homeless veterans, Aiona suggested a peer-to-peer outreach program with the Hawaii National Guard. The unique relationship the Guard has with veterans will help homeless former service members to seek and receive the assistance they need, Aiona said in a statement.