New count finds spike in homeless on Oahu

New count finds spike in homeless on Oahu

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new count finds a spike in Oahu's homeless community, a 3 percent increase since 2013.

A small snapshot of the Point in Time count. 385 were veterans, 924 were mentally ill, 635 were alcoholics or drug users, and 289 were victims of domestic abuse.

Hawaii's visible homeless community is growing.

A count done on January 22nd found 4,712 homeless on Oahu, half individuals, and half living in families.

That's up more than 1 thousand or 30 percent in 5 years and that doesn't account for the "hidden homeless."

Hawaiian Hope Executive Director Curtis Kropar explained, "There's a lot of people. They don't want to be part of the count. They don't want anybody to know that they're homeless. There's a certain shame involved.

Curtis Kropar was once part of Pittsburgh's hidden homeless. "Don't do drugs, drink, smoke, none of it and yet I found myself on the street" said Kropar.

He went from living in a basement the size of a box-- to running a non-profit that has offered computer training to give a hand up to Hawaii's low income and homeless population since 2006.

"News reports say the median price of housing is now 600 thousand. Wow, who can afford that? Okay, well no kidding we have more homeless" says Kropar.

While 92 percent of homeless families were counted in shelters, individuals dealing with mental issues may fall through the cracks-- and crackdowns by the City are a bandaid.

On Hawaii News Now Sunrise, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell talked about challenges getting City Council to fund "Housing First" and plans to stop people from using bus stops as personal shelters.

Mayor Caldwell told Grace Lee, "We are putting in round stools so homeless can no longer sleep. Some people complained, but otherwise homeless will lie on them."

"If you want to make it look nice, nice like we don't have a problem for tourists, great, but it doesn't actually address the problem" said Krogar. "The planters on the sidewalk and the shuffling people around, that definitely does not help."

The Mayor is setting up a 12 person task force to stop sleeping on bus benches and pushing for more funding for programs like Housing First.

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