Advocacy group says sit-lie isn't moving homeless to shelters

Advocacy group says sit-lie isn't moving homeless to shelters

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In September, the city began its sit-lie law. The advocacy group PHOCUSED said since then homeless shelter vacancy rates have remained the same or increased.

"If sit-lie is really supposed to be connecting people to shelters, you have to question why do we continue to have such high levels of vacancies at some of these emergency shelters?" PHOCUSED executive director Scott Morishige said.

Shelter administrators said the report fails to account for fluctuations in attendance and other ways shelters help homeless.

"In some months our transitional shelter numbers were down. However, our emergency shelter numbers were actually up," Next Step shelter director Lambert Lum said. "We also have homeless outreach that are actually placing men or women and families directly into permanent housing, by-passing the shelter," Institute for Human Services development manager Kimo Carvalho said.

But Morishige believes the growth of a tent city in Kakaako shows that more homeless people aren't seeking shelter.

"You're looking at an increase of about 120 in Kakaako as of early September to maybe a little under 500 as of just last week. That's staggering," he said.

The Mayor's Office of Housing executive director Jun Yang said the available beds report is a snapshot that doesn't reflect Housing First numbers.

"We have 31 chronically homeless households being housed that have not been housed for years," he said.

The bed vacancy survey does not include statistics for households placed in units and turnover in shelter bed space.

On Monday Mayor Kirk Caldwell will unveil his Fiscal Year 2016 budget that will include a $5.5 million increase for homeless services, of which $4.5 million will be targeted for Housing First. The vacancy rate numbers are collected on the Friday of every week.

"It's not numbers that we're estimating on our own. It's reported to us by the shelter staff," Morishige said.

The latest numbers were added last week. They show an average of about 135 of 952 bed spaces in nine Oahu homeless shelters were empty.

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