The State’s Homeless Point-in-Time Count indicated an overall decrease for a second consecutive year. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.
Earlier this year, approximately 600 volunteers asked homeless individuals where they slept on the night of January 22nd. Heather Lusk, co-chair of Partners-in-Care, says O’ahu had the first point-in-time decrease in unsheltered homeless in 6 years.
“On O’ahu, we had 4,959 folks last year. This year, we had a decrease of 464 persons or about 9.4 percent decrease. Our unsheltered count also went down on O’ahu. Down 179 folks, homeless.”
Overall this year, there were 690 less homeless individuals statewide, with double digit decreases in homeless families, children and veterans. Bridging the Gap, representing Hawai’i Island, Maui and Kaua’i, also measured significant decreases, overall. Brandee Melino, is chairwoman of the neighbor island group.
“For Hawai’i Island it dropped by 8.8 percent or 84 people; for Maui it dropped by 2.6 percent or 23 people; and Kaua’i saw the largest drop at 28.9 percent or 119 people.”
Lusk and Melino credit a new coordinated entry system for placing homeless individuals and families into shelters or permanent housing. They also credit an increase in available shelter and housing beds, statewide, up from 5-thousand a few years ago to more than 8-thousand this year. But, James Koshiba, a researcher and consultant, questions the accuracy of the count but says there are ways to validate the report.
“I think there are ways to get to that, too. Like looking at how many of those folks stayed in permanent housing after they’ve been placed. If there are people going into the shelters, are they being discharged into the street or are they being discharged to permanent housing. Like those kinds of questions can get to a clearer sense of exactly how many people are we getting off the street into permanent housing, which is the goal.”
The Point-in-Time Count is required by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provided more than 12 million dollars in funding for Hawai’i last year. The State Legislature also appropriated 15 million dollars this session for homeless programs. The Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness, Scott Morishige, says that money will be invested in proven programs, not legislative initiatives.
“Ohana zones is something that the Governor is still looking at that legislation. We don’t wanna just set up a place where people to go to pitch a tent because we know that hasn’t worked in the past. You only need to look at A’ala Park in the early 1990s and that was not effective.”
Meanwhile, Partners in Care co-chair, Lusk, says the goal is to increase permanent housing placements next year.
“In 2017, we averaged about 231 people a month into permanent housing. As of now, we’re doing 412 placements per month.”
For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.