Report: Growing number of homeless put stress on provider network

Report: Growing number of homeless put stress on provider network

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A record 14,954 people sought homeless services in Hawaii last fiscal year, up nearly 5 percent from the year before, a new University of Hawaii report found.

The annual Homeless Service Utilization report says the biggest increase in need was among unaccompanied homeless adults: Some 8,250 sought help from outreach programs or homeless shelters, up by 740 people from the year before.

Of the total number who got services, some 10,257 were on Oahu.

That's the highest number since 2010.

Sarah Yuan, associate specialist at the University of Hawaii Center on the Family, which released the report, says the figures aren't a current snapshot of homelessness. But they do help illustrate how a growing number of homeless are putting greater stress on the homeless provider network.

"We have not been able to exit people (from homelessness) at the speed that we need to in order to catch up with the increasing demand," she said.

Some 5,717 newcomers to the homeless network sought services in fiscal year 2015, an increase of 256 clients from the previous year.

Perhaps most worrisome, those new clients were more likely than returning clients to be children 6 and under or young adults. The majority were also first helped with outreach services, then placed in shelters.

And half of new adult clients had lived in the state for a decade or more.

The Homeless Service Utilization measures how many people got help from homeless providers, including outreach services, shelters and housing assistance programs.

The utilization report is designed to be married up with an annual count of the homeless on one specific day. The problem: The report is months overdue because of a vendor problem and other issues.

Homeless providers compared the lack homeless utilization data like "flying blind."

Yuan said the report helps providers better understand who needs help – and how they're being helped. In fiscal year 2015, she pointed out, some 3,000 people were helped into permanent supportive housing.

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