Count shows big decline in homelessness, but some doubt its accu - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Count shows big decline in homelessness, but some doubt its accuracy

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Homelessness has dropped nearly 10 percent compared to last year, according to a new statewide point-in-time count.

Statewide volunteers counted 6,530 homeless people. That's 690 less people than they counted last year. 

Kauai saw the largest decrease — at 28.9 percent, followed by Oahu with a 9.4 percent drop.

Numbers on Hawaii Island fell 8.8 percent. Maui was down 2.6 percent.

"We are no longer in the business of managing homeless. We're in the business of ending homelessness in our community," said Brandee Menino, of Bridging the Gap, after the figures were released.

“We’re very pleased with today’s news but there’s still much to do," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. "There’s no doubt that in working with Governor Ige’s administration, along with private sector partners, we’re seeing a change in the right direction."

"It’s important to acknowledge today’s progress, but none of us will rest easy while so many people on Oahu, and throughout the state, remain homeless,” Caldwell said.

Homeless advocates credit declining numbers to better coordination among agencies. And for the first time — all providers are using the same assessment on all clients. They say there's also a little more housing.

"We've had an increase in rental availabilities and shelter beds as well. So, our housing inventory has gone up which has allowed us to get people off the streets," said Heather Lusk, of Partners In Care.

But despite the positive news some people are skeptical of the report's accuracy.

The count was conducted the last week of January and included an estimated 600 volunteers statewide.

Alani Apio was one of them. 

"When I went in for training the administrators told us that there were roughly half as many volunteers they had last year. And that wasn't enough," said Apio.

Apio's group was responsible for counting near the Nimitz Viaduct. He says he witnessed sweeps there in the days leading up to the count.

"I asked them (homeless campers) where did everybody go? They said they're in hiding. They've dispersed to deeper areas," said Apio. "Additionally there were a number of camps that I went to where people did not want to come out and get counted."

The report shows numbers in Downtown Honolulu, which includes Kakaako, were down more than 20.3 percent compared to last year. 

Meanwhile, numbers in East Honolulu were up 7.8 percent. In Ewa, the number increased by 8.2 percent; and on the Waianae Coast the number was up 17.6 percent. 

The city says it minimized sweeps in the days leading up to the point in time count, but enforcement did not stop.

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