Journal Staff

The Office of the Attorney General of Guam, along with the Office of the Governor of Guam, and the Mayors Council of Guam is launching the Homeless Relocation Initiative. The agencies confirmed the initiative during a press conference held on Jan. 27 at the Attorney General’s office in Tamuning.

“There is currently a problem Guam is experiencing by groups of homeless people who are in need of help,” said Attorney General Douglas B. Moylan. “The objective is to help them relocate to a family relative that is willing to take them in.”

There are 790 people experiencing homelessness on the island, and 92 households with children, according to the Guam Homeless Coalition. Of the homeless population, 52.66% of them are CHamorus. 

Addressing Guam media (from left) Lt. Gov. Joshua F. Tenorio, Guam Attorney General Douglas B. Moylan, and Dededo Mayor Melissa B. Savares. Photo by Isaiah John Aguon

“The program initiative was intended to relocate … these people from the current locations that they are at throughout the island to alternate locations and to see the help that they need in order to get back on their feet,” Moylan said. “We assume these people are in need of help because they are living in conditions … that require assistance.”

Through these efforts, the Office of the Attorney General is sending out notices to those in encampments across the island, starting in Dededo opposite the Micronesia Mall, the island’s most populated village. 

“The purpose of the notice is to provide legal notice that they would have to clear their camp,” he said. “A successful operation is going to be when the government chooses to visit them that no one will be there. The Attorney General’s Office has taken the step to do this from a legal point of view on the authorities of the government to intervene to help the individuals as well as to enforce the people’s right for a community that is free of homelessness.”

The notices say, “All occupying these premises are in violation of Guam law including but not limited to statutes pertaining to criminal trespass and public nuisance.” They also say, “Violators will have five days to leave the premises.” The warning also includes available services to the homeless population. 

On the panel, Moylan was joined by Lt. Gov. Joshua F. Tenorio, who is the chairperson on the Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Being homeless is not a crime but we have a responsibility on this island to make sure that we follow all the laws,” Tenorio said. “Our efforts are to try and identify folks so that we can provide them with proper sheltering. Unfortunately, in some cases we have seen … violence and other activities at the Micronesia Mall encampment. … When there is violence, public drunkenness, and when there is a danger to the community, especially our children, we are compelled to act and that is what this effort is.”

Answering questions from Guam media were (from left) Rob San Agustin, director, Office of Homelessness Assistance and Poverty Prevention, and vice chairman of the Guam Homeless Coalition; Samantha Taitano, executive director of Manelu, who is also the chairwoman of the Guam Homeless Coalition; former Sen. Clynton E. Ridgell, deputy chief of staff of the Leon Guerrero Tenorio Administration; and Stephen Ignacio, chief of the Guam Police Department. Photo by Isaiah John Aguon

Dededo Mayor Melissa B. Savares on behalf of the Mayors’ Council of Guam was also in attendance. She said, “The Mayors’ Council of Guam will continue to assist any individuals with the necessary documents to turn in their applications whether it be housing, and public assistance.” She said, “All offices have been instructed to also give them applications for block grants, Women, Infants, and Children or WIC, and like Medicaid.” 

The question is where are the homeless people going to be relocated to?

“What the effort is —in the few days after the five days’ notice we will have a team assembled on the farmers market in Dededo with the mayor and whoever is left at that encampment will be there and we will have wrap around services so we can identify who they are and see where they are in the system and try and find them proper placement,” Tenorio said. “Hopefully this is going to be a family reunification.” 

The other part of the initiative will also address those who panhandle, according to Guam Police Department Chief Stephen Ignacio, who said, “Panhandling in the middle of the road is illegal.”

Panhandlers on the medians could be arrested, he said. 

“First offense will be issued a warning, and second time will result in a citation,” Ignacio said. “… As we move forward, we look at who the violators are and if there are continuous violations [they] may result in an arrest.” 

He also acknowledged that Guam law does allow for “certain panhandling activities.”

Also attending the press conference were Samantha Taitano, executive director of Manelu, who is also the chairwoman of the Guam Homeless Coalition; Rob San Agustin, director of the Office of Homelessness Assistance and Poverty Prevention, also vice chairman of the Guam Homeless Coalition; former Sen. Clynton E. Ridgell, deputy chief of staff of the Leon Guerrero Tenorio Administration; Vincent P. Arriola, director of the Department of Public Works; and Theresa Arriola, director of the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center.

A date has not been set on when this program will be launching.

“This [has] gotta be done and we are taking a first step,” Moylan said, concluding the press conference. mbj