Photo by Marina Riker | Courtesy INHNL
The Department of Human Services (DHS) Homeless Programs Office (HPO) has released the 2015 Statewide Point in Time (PIT) count, which attempts to create an accurate imaging of the current status of Hawaii’s houseless population via a cross section of data on hoousless populations across Oahu and the neighbor islands. The Oahu data was released in April. This year’s statewide count of houseless individuals and families was conducted on Jan. 25, 2015.
The main takeaway: the number of sheltered and unsheltered houseless has increased in all counties but Kauai. Coupled with the recent study conducted by the University of Hawaii’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning which shows that the City and County of Honolulu’s current policies toward houselessness have been total failures, this data confirms that Hawaii’s leaders are struggling to come up with any actual solutions to the problem.
“It is clear that we must collaborate with the counties to address the rising numbers of homeless individuals and families across the state,” said Gov. David Ige in a press release that accompanied the PIT. “I fully support the Housing First Initiative and similar programs that provide transitional and permanent emergency housing, job training, referral services for mental illness and addiction and other social services.”
While pretty much everyone in the state agrees that Housing First ought to be supported, no additional funds were allocated to the program for neighbor islands during the 2015 legislative session.
“It’s unfortunate to see the expected increase of houseless persons, especially families with children, increase on other islands as it has in Hawaii,” said houseless advocate Kathryn Xian. “There was no funding allocated to Housing First for other islands last legislative session, which will prohibit the reach for services to the chronically homeless populace.”
She added, “What is also sorely needed is a program directed at housing those who fall outside of the chronically homeless category such as seniors, the disabled, and families. These are the majority of the houseless in Hawaii. They not only need housing but services to maintain a stable home.
The primary objective of the PIT count is to estimate the number of sheltered and unsheltered houseless individuals and families throughout Hawaii at a given, single point in time. The count allows service providers and the community to more accurately assess current levels of houselessness for various household types, to more accurately estimate the number of chronically houseless individuals and families, and to more accurately evaluate the extent of houselessness among vulnerable populations such as military veterans and youth.
According to the PIT, Hawaii Island has seen the total number of houseless individuals increase in both sheltered and unsheltered categories. The sheltered total increased 4 percent compared to the 2014 PIT. The results also show that 62 percent of all houseless individuals on Hawaii Island are single, while 38 percent are in family units, up slightly since 2014.
Additionally, 18 percent of all houseless individuals and 30 percent of houseless families are sheltered; 45 percent of sheltered families reside in transitional housing facilities, while the remaining 55 percent reside in emergency shelters. Of all individuals who are part of a houseless family, 27 percent are sheltered in either emergency or transitional facilities.
Maui County showed an increase in both sheltered and unsheltered houselessness as well. The total of sheltered houseless individuals increased 12 percent compared to 2014. According to the 2015 PIT, 65 percent of all houseless individuals in Maui County are single while 35 percent are in a family unit.
Forty-four percent of all houseless individuals and 78 percent of houseless families in Maui County are sheltered; 86 percent of sheltered families reside in transitional housing facilities, while the remaining 14 percent reside in emergency shelters. Additionally, 74 percent of all houseless family individuals are sheltered in either emergency or transitional facilities.
On Kauai, there was a decline in the total number of houseless individuals. The 2015 PIT shows that 68 percent of all houseless citizens on Kauai are single, and 32 percent are in family units, a slight decline from 2014.
Fifty-six percent of all houseless individuals and 59 percent of houseless families are sheltered. Of the sheltered families, 71 percent reside in transitional housing facilities, while the remaining 29 percent reside in emergency shelters. More than half (56 percent) of all houseless family individuals are sheltered in either emergency or transitional facilities.
Oahu data shows that the number of houseless citizens increased by 4 percent since 2014.
“In general, we see this as a clear repercussion of how our government is handling our regressive economy,” said Xian. “Taxes are high, there is no living wage nor affordable housing. And, simply put, people are suffering due to this type of unequal economic system.”