Report gives more insight into homelessness

Report gives insight into homelessness

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Crystal Smith has camped on a sidewalk on and off for the past couple of years. She has never sought help from a shelter.

"I have a tent right there. It's not like it's negative 30 degrees outside or 120," she said.

Marian Paio has been homeless for six years. Her two daughters also live in tents near Aala Park. They don't go to shelters either.

"I go to my church and get food for us," she said.

The 2013 Homeless Service Utilization Report shows 13,649 sought assistance between July of 2012 and June of this year, down for the third straight year.

"It shows that we don't have an increasing problem. At least it's contained," said Sarah Yuan, who authored the study for the UH Manoa Center on the Family.

But are the results really a positive? Forty percent of homeless who were helped at shelters had never gone to one before. Experts at the statewide Homeless Awareness Conference agree that the numbers raise more concerns.

"When there's someone new, how long have they been in the islands really? Have they been here for a year or two and they just haven't been counted to now? Did they fall into homelessness? Did they come from another place?" Partners in Care chairman Darryl Vincent said.

The state wants to first house chronically homeless then offer them services. But 19,000 units need to be added to Hawaii's inventory to help those desperate for affordable housing. including the homeless.

"Presently we build about 250 units a year at that price range. So we need to substantially increase the amount of affordable housing that we're producing," state Homelessness Coordinator Colin Kippen said.

The report said 849 homeless questioned at shelters said they moved to Hawaii within the last twelve months. Smith believes there are a lot more, and she said demographics are changing.

"It's more younger people. I see 15- and 16-year-old kids out here on the street. That's not right. They should be in a house, in a bed, not out here trying to learn how to hustle a street," she said.

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