Upon hearing from Councilmembers Trevor Ozawa and Joey Manahan on a homeless solution in Seattle that has done wonders to combat homelessness in the state of Washington, Mufi Hannemann, HLTA's President felt it was important that HLTA as an organization be briefed on this very timely topic. "I'm always looking proactively for solutions and best practices from other areas to continue to build on the progress we've made thus far in Waikiki, and most recently on Maui, " stated Hannemann.
“As much as people need a meal, they also need a shower,” said Councilmember Joey Monahan at HLTA’s joint Government and Homelessness Committee meeting on March 15, 2016. In a presentation with Councilmember Trevor Ozawa, Councilmember Monahan introduced Urban Rest Stops: clean, safe, and welcoming facilities for homeless individuals and families to use restrooms, showers, and laundry machines free of charge.
The Urban Rest Stop, a program of the Low Income Housing Institute, has been incredibly successful in Seattle, Washington where there are currently three locations. As of 2014, the Urban Rest Stops in Seattle have provided 714,683 showers, 318,116 loads of laundry, 1,368,499 restroom visits, and serviced 36,361 unduplicated patrons. The operation costs of each facility run between $150,000 to $300,000 a year.
The statistics from the Seattle Urban Rest Stops show facilities such as this can be extremely effective. Paramount to the quantifiable data, however, is the improvement in a homeless person’s quality of life. Showers and laundry facilities, not to mention a safe place to use the restroom, are crucial amenities affecting a person’s ability to acquire jobs and maintain healthy relationships. The Urban Rest Stops promote responsibility and respect through reservation policies and rules of use. Patrons must practice daily life skills, such as making a reservation, being punctual, and cleaning up after oneself in order to use the facilities. Seattle found the patrons of the Urban Rest Stops had improved physical and mental health, and there was reduced hostility between homeless and housed persons.
In addition to improving the individual’s quality of life, Urban Rest Stops will also benefit communities and tourists. With a clean and dignified place to shower or use the restroom, homeless individuals will be less likely to trespass onto hotel or residential property to use restrooms or hoses. Shared community spaces such as buses, parks, beaches, and public walkways will be cleaner and more attractive. “A clean community is a healthy community,” said Councilmember Ozawa.
In Honolulu, an Urban Rest Stop could serve well in various areas, particularly Chinatown, Kaka`ako, North Shore, and Waikiki. “We only need one to start the fire,” said City Council Chairperson Ernest Martin. Hawai`i’s large-scale problem of homelessness will require innovative and diverse initiatives to be solved. While providing the infrastructure for good hygiene won’t be a comprehensive solution, it will be a good place to start. The Hawai`i Lodging & Tourism Association is a strong advocate for addressing homelessness concerns, and supports the development of Urban Rest Stops in Hawai`i.
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