Volunteers begin surveying Hawaii’s homeless communities statewide

Volunteers begin surveying Hawaii’s homeless communities statewide

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An army of volunteers hit the streets across the state Tuesday night to take part in a statewide count of Hawaii’s homeless population.

Approximately 700 of them spread out across Oahu alone.

The count will continue until Friday.

“We’re doing our first night of ‘point-in-time’ — which is one night every year that we in Hawaii count folks who are houseless or homeless and it’s required by our funding from HUD," said Heather Lusk, Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center Executive Director.

The annual ‘point-in-time’ count and survey is required by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Results of the survey determine how much money the state will get to combat the homeless crisis.

Keith Koga has been homeless in Chinatown for nearly two years and is currently trying to get into housing. He said being counted is a chance for him to get help.

“Been in prison all my life," Koga said. “They’re making a difference in the community right now, major difference.”

Volunteers ask willing participants 22 questions in exchange for toiletries or a gift card for food.

This year, there are two new questions:

“Are you now or have you been displaced from your home by natural disaster?”

and

“Did you experience homelessness as a youth under the age of 18?”

On Tuesday, Governor David Ige said the state’s homeless population has gone down 18-percent in the last two years.

In 2017, volunteers tallied a total of 7,220 homeless people statewide, a 9 percent drop from the year before and the first decrease the state has seen in eight years.

In 2018, volunteers counted 6,530 homeless people — a drop of 9.6 percent compared to the previous year.

Volunteers are hoping for another improvement this year.

“We’ve house almost 1,000 people in the past two years for example. At the same time, we’ve done such a great job of training and getting folks out there, we might find more people,” said Lusk.

Lusk said the plan is to have their data entered by February 15th and they are looking for volunteers to help with that. She said hopefully results will be released at the end of March.

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