May 22, 2010; Maui News | The redevelopment of downtown Wailuku has been going on for decades—involving businesses and nonprofits. A real estate broker is concerned that a concentration of nonprofit services in the community could lead to homelessness and crime. She suggested that the town consider whether it has reached a “tipping point” of too many nonprofits.

Other business people suggest that crime ascribed to nonprofit clients was exaggerated and incorrect. Based on comments at a community meeting on policing, the county’s Housing and Human Concerns director responded to public testimony about drinking and panhandling in the area by saying, “We didn’t know that this had gotten out of hand.”

This kind of battle occurs in communities throughout the nation. Sometimes, the critics don’t realize it is poverty and homelessness that creates homeless people in downtowns, not the nonprofits providing services. Moreover, in communities like Wailuku, the people receiving services are often family members of people who reside in the community. Without the nonprofits, the downtown would still have the homeless and unemployed—and vacant buildings to boot.—Rick Cohen