City launches new push to house homeless vets

City launches new push to house homeless vets

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mayor Kirk Caldwell didn't reach the goal of ending veteran homelessness in Honolulu by the end of 2015, but his office hasn't given up on the effort.

And this week, the city announced a new 100-day push to tackle homelessness among veterans.

"During that time we're really going to drive down the number of chronically homeless that are on the street," said Jun Yang, executive director of the city's Office of Housing.

Since January 2015, 747 homeless veterans on Oahu have been placed in permanent housing.

The city estimates there are another 221 homeless vets still in need of permanent housing.

At least 38 are staying in emergency homeless shelters, while 90 are living in transitional housing. The city says 89 homeless vets are still on the street.

Meanwhile, there are far fewer vets falling into homelessness compared to last year.

"On a monthly basis, there were about 50 to 70 new veterans entering the system," said Nate French, improvement adviser with Community Solutions. "Now, for the last six months, we're seeing it's about 24."

Much of the success in preventing veteran homelessness is credited to a new tracking system, which identifies veterans in need of help so that it's harder for someone to slip through the cracks.

"This is not a projection," French said. "They are real names, real people on a list that people have encountered during outreach or entering programs in the system."

According to French, there's enough federal subsidy money available on Oahu to to house all vets currently in the system.

That's "a big deal," French said. "We haven't seen that in the past."

But the lack of permanent affordable housing remains a significant issue.

"It's going to take more landlords to participate," Yang said. "We're looking for studios, one bedrooms. I think the largest one would probably be a 2-bedroom."

The city says of those 89 unsheltered homeless veterans, about three dozen have refused help.

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