HILO, Hawaii – Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim says he will continue to support the advocacy of the late Dr. Clifford Kopp, who hiked around the Big Island in an effort to raise awareness for the growing homeless population in Hawaii.
“We owe it to the people who are having a hard time and damn well we owe it to Dr. Kopp,” the mayor said recently during a video interview.
Kopp, a well known Kona dentist, died suddenly of a stroke in October 2016 after completing his fifth walk around the island to build awareness for the plight of the homeless. Mayor Kim – at that time a candidate for office – joined him on certain legs of the journey and supported his efforts.
“He almost demanded, can we meet?” Kim said of Kopp. They met at Ken’s Pancake House at 6 a.m., although Kim is not a breakfast eater.
Kopp always believed the island community could be doing more to help the homeless population. He appreciated the effort to construct micro-units, but he wanted to see more done. He said he drew up plans for a larger facility, a 300-bed shelter in Kona. Kopp was working on getting government to adopt his vision when he suddenly died.
Now, mayor Kim says he will try to carry out Kopp’s work.
“I made more than a few promises to him,” Kim said. “Coincidentally, we just met with some of his friends in Kona that are pursuing this shelter thing. And yes, we will. And its not just a commitment to him, but its a commitment to how big this problem is.”
The effort will require state assistance, Kim says. The governor has been made aware of Kopp and his efforts.
“We have to work together,” Kim said. “Not the state alone. Not the county alone. Not the community alone. We have to – as a partner – work on this.”