State bolsters homeless prevention programs - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

State bolsters homeless prevention programs

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

State officials say one of the best ways to tackle homelessness is to prevent it. And they’re putting money on that.

In an emergency proclamation issued earlier this month to address homelessness, the governor included $1 million in additional funds for the types of programs you’d expect: shelters, housing placement and outreach.

But he also included some $300,000 to expand homeless prevention efforts statewide. The funds will be added to about $730,000 in state and federal funds allocated to homeless prevention this fiscal year.

Those totals pale in comparison to the tens of millions of dollars that go to Hawaii’s shelters and outreach programs annually.

But officials point out that keeping a family in a home – with the help of a small emergency grant to cover a month of rent or utilities – is much cheaper than trying to help them get back into housing once they’ve lost it.

The new funds for homeless prevention come amid other efforts to keep people from losing their homes, including an innovative program in the courts that aims to work out back-rent disputes.

At any one time in the islands, there are an estimated 7,600 people living on the streets and in shelters. Thousands more are at imminent risk of homelessness or are among the “hidden homeless” – those living with family or friends for economic reasons alone, advocates say.

Nonprofits that have emergency homeless prevention funds say there’s always more need than available dollars – and that requests for help are going up.

In the fiscal year than ended June 30, the Institute for Human Services helped 550 households with emergency vouchers to prevent homelessness. That’s up from 385 households in fiscal year 2014.

Kimo Carvalho, IHS spokesman, said for every family IHS is able to help with an emergency voucher, the nonprofit has to turn another family away because they lack a “sustainability plan” that shows how a one-time voucher will make the difference versus hold off the inevitable.

Salvation Army Hawaii also helps family with small, one-time rental vouchers. The money helps families avert eviction – covering overdue rent – or assists homeless families quickly get back into a home.

So far this year, the nonprofit has received 362 requests for assistance and been able to help 151 households. By comparison, Salvation Army got 288 requests for assistance and helped 142 households last year.

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