Many of us can’t help but see new faces on street corners as more men, women and even children hold up signs asking for money.
While homelessness and panhandling are separate issues, we do know that some of those who beg for money have no shelter or substandard shelter.
Preliminary data showed 873 homeless people on island, according to Guam's 2019 point-in-time homeless count. While lower than 2015’s approximately 1,200 – this number is alarming because it breaks from the downward trend we were seeing regarding the homeless individuals counted:
• 2015: 1280 individuals
• 2016: 972 individuals
• 2017: 852 individuals
• 2018: 854 individuals
In light of such numbers, we are glad that island officials are looking to other jurisdictions for possible ways to manage the problem.
Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio, Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority Executive Director Raymond Topasna and Adelup chief of staff Tony Babauta recently met with state and federal officials in Honolulu to learn about programs in Hawaii.
In the Aloha State, Tenorio and Topasna joined Hawaii Lt. Gov. Josh Green for a series of meetings and tours of homeless camps and innovative affordable housing models, GHURA stated in a news release.
Hawaii has devised a 10-point plan to deal with its chronic homeless problem, which includes lift zones, transitional shelters, medical treatment, joint outreach centers and low-income housing.
Hawaii’s plan is making a dent in the problem. Since implementation, there has been a 42-person decrease in the homeless count, from 4,495 last year to 4,453 this year, according to Hawaii's 2019 point-in-time homeless count.
Tenorio said one of the takeaways is the innovative affordable housing model homes at the Kahauiki Village. The village provides affordable long-term housing for homeless families.
We hope to see Guam officials follow through on plans here to help homeless individuals and families.
In December 2017, the Calvo administration announced its plan for an overnight homeless shelter as a short-term solution. “This shelter would provide men, women and children an overnight shelter – somewhere safe, clean and dry for the night,” former Gov. Eddie Calvo said in his weekly address in December 2017.
We hope to see Guam open an overnight homeless shelter because it could make the difference between a short period of homelessness and a debilitating fall into chronic homelessness.
We recognize that the homeless problem is complex because many affected individuals contend with medical, mental health and substance abuse issues. But we urge the government of Guam to follow through on plans for more affordable housing and an overnight shelter to help alleviate the problem.
It’s one thing to announce plans to help the homeless. It’s another to follow through on plans to open doors to safer homes and more stable futures.