National expert says state's making progress on homeless crisis

National expert says state's making progress on homeless crisis

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A national expert on homelessness is back in Honolulu to gauge how the state is coping with the crisis.

"When I came here about this time last summer there was a large encampment. I would say about 300 people," said Katy Miller, Regional Coordinator US Interagency Council on Homelessness.

The massive encampment in Kakaako may be gone. But there are nearly 5,000 people still living on the streets of Oahu.

Still, Miller believes the state has made progress tackling the states homeless crisis.

On Tuesday, she toured Oahu's newest shelter, the Family Assessment Center in Kakaako, which is slated to open the middle of next month.

"The purpose of this building here is quickly bringing them into safety. Assessing their needs and moving them into permanent housing," said Miller.

This is the third shelter in Honolulu to adopt the "bridge housing model" over the past year. The feds say it's a strategy that works. But in order for it to be successful in Hawaii:

"Everyone needs to work quickly and the units of housing are critical here. Without a place to move people it's very hard to end homelessness," said Miller.

Miller pointed out coordination between the government, the community, and service providers has improved.  Outreach workers agree saying for the first time different agencies are helping each other.

"A year ago there was no relationships now people are calling one another making the referrals and things are actually happening," said Justin Phillips.

I think that you have a solid framework in place. But I think everyone needs to continue to work together. From time to time different groups head off in different directions with different priorities.  The more everyone can align priorities.  You're going to make greater gain," said Miller.

Miller added Honolulu has made great strides tackling veteran homelessness. She says those strategies can be used to help other populations. The key is that everyone continues to work with urgency.

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