HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Every year, during the last week of January, volunteers canvas the state to get a tally of how many homeless people are living in Hawaii.
During that homeless count that occurred a year ago, state officials say 7,220 people were counted – and although that number was down nine percent from 2016, Hawaii continues to have the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the United States.
A spokesman for the state's largest homeless service provider says that with numbers like that, it's crucial that everyone is accounted for. The results of the point in time count are directly related to how much money the federal government gives the state to help deal with homelessness.
"An undercount would actually mean we would not be granted funds that we really need to address the homeless situation here in Hawaii, meaning we wouldn't have enough subsidy programs to move homeless people off the streets," said Kimo Carvalho.
Organizers are looking for 500 volunteers, but even though recruiting started a month ago, only about 50 have signed up.
Participating requires less than a half day's work.
"Volunteers are asked to put in about an hour of training prior to the event, and then about two hours, sometimes three hours during the night of the point in time count," said Carvalho. "It's a very well organized. A very safe count. We actually train the volunteers on knowing what the survey is going to be. How to be comfortable and interact with a homeless person."
While urban Honolulu accounts for a large part of Oahu's homeless population, the state is stressing the need for volunteers outside of town.
"I know in year's, past some of the rural areas such as Wahiawa, the North Shore and Windward Oahu, the community came to us and said those areas had been under counted, so we want to make sure we have good volunteer turnout island wide," said the Governor's Homeless Coordinator, Scott Morishige.
Taking part in the actual count isn't the only way to volunteer. Organizers also need donations; things like toiletries that they can use as incentives to get folks to take the survey.
For more information on how to volunteer, click here.