Bill would give Hawaii land for temporary homeless camps

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — A Hawaii legislative committee has approved a bill to allow state land to be used for emergency homeless camps during the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill passed by House Finance Committee members Monday would allow month-to-month revocable permits to be used for temporary shelters to accommodate people experiencing homelessness, West Hawaii Today reported that.

Scott Morshige, homelessness coordinator for Democratic Gov. David Ige, said there is concern about community and privately supported camps on public land without authorization that may not have access to basic hygiene or present other hazards like location in a flood zone.

The measure would provide a mechanism for the state to temporarily regulate encampments while the virus outbreak continues, Morshige said.

The bill, which passed the House Committee on Housing last week, will move to the House floor for a vote.

An amendment added Monday by the Department of Land and Natural Resources would require the measure to expire three months after Ige lifts emergency health restrictions that went into effect in March.

The original Senate bill underwent changes in the House calling for capital improvement project funding for affordable rental housing. The updates require another vote in the Senate before the bill is sent to Ige for his signature.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.