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Door closes on homeless villages bill

KAILUA-KONA — A bill to fund two Big Island homeless villages died Tuesday in the state House judiciary committee.

House Bill 2461 would have established a Hawaii Island Homeless Villages Program and appropriated more than $2.5 million from the state’s general fund in fiscal year 2018-19 to construct, manage and maintain a site in Kailua-Kona near Kealakehe High School known as “Village 9,” as well as a site in Hilo.

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Annual management and maintenance costs for the two villages would have amounted to $1.36 million in perpetuity had the measure passed, assuming appropriations and monetary need remained the same.

Lance Niimi, executive assistant to Mayor Harry Kim who coordinates the county’s response to homelessness issues, said each homeless village would have provided 25 alternative-style units for families and individuals, 50 total, as well as a community and assessment center at each location. The areas also would have created space for homeless people living in vehicles, who would have had access to community center facilities such as showers, communal bathrooms and a kitchen.

The county projected each site would support up to 100 individuals.

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Carolyn Tanaka, state House spokeswoman, said Monday that the judiciary committee would need to schedule a hearing for HB 2461 by Tuesday, as well as hear the bill and move it out of committee by Thursday, or the measure would fail.

James Gonser, another House spokesman, confirmed Tuesday that the committee had not scheduled a hearing for the bill.