By Rick Blangiardi
In the spirit of wanting to be somewhat optimistic, it was encouraging to learn in this past Sunday's edition of the Star Advertiser's "Insight Section" about some of the progress finally being made regarding providing housing and other essential services to Oahu's homeless.
Last Thursday, the State released the anticipated "Homeless Point-in-Time Count" which is an annual effort to gauge homelessness nationally. It listed that as of this past January 25th, Oahu's homeless population was 4,903 and that 1,939 of them were unsheltered. The study also revealed that the number of homeless individuals Statewide has increased by 23% between 2011 and 2015.
So last week, we sent our own Mileka Lincoln from our Hawaii News Now team to provide us with a better understanding and perspective on homelessness on the islands of Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii Island. We learned that while the primary causes that lead to homelessness, such as mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, and severe lack of affordable housing on our neighbor islands are similar to Oahu; the many challenges in helping these people is even more complex than on Oahu.
For starts, the federally funded "Housing First" initiative designed to provide shelter for the homeless on Oahu does not apply to our neighbor islands.
Now, the study listed Kauai has a homeless population of 400, Maui was listed as 950, and Hawaii Island was listed at 1,241, but as Mileka reported on each of these islands counting the homeless on these islands is likely not very accurate because so many live in remote, difficult-to-reach areas. It is estimated that many are local residents, and that the real numbers are considerably higher than what was reported, and growing, due to a severe lack of shelters and affordable housing.
Clearly, we need City, State and Federal financial support and just as important, we need a strong will and resolve by our elected political leaders to have the courage to take this terrible situation head on, no matter the controversial risk.