January count found Oahu’s homeless population nearly unchanged from 2019

Four years and $44 million later, the homeless crisis is still very real in Hawaii.
Four years and $44 million later, the homeless crisis is still very real in Hawaii.(Hawaii News Now)
Published: Jun. 8, 2020 at 1:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Despite major efforts over the last year to address the homeless crisis, a point-in-time survey conducted on a single night in January found the number of people living on the streets and in shelters on Oahu was nearly unchanged from the year before.

Volunteers with Partners in Care counted 4,448 homeless people islandwide, up by 31 from 2019.

Of those, 53% were unsheltered. And 1 in 4 were chronically homeless.

The figures are undoubtedly disappointing to homeless service providers and government agencies, which have sought to re-imagine homeless programs and re-allocate funds in a bid to move people off the streets and into permanent housing.

[Read more: Ige pledged to end homelessness in Hawaii by 2020. What happened?]

[Read more: US Surgeon General: Hawaii’s homeless crisis won’t be solved with housing alone]

Among homeless adults surveyed, an inability to pay rent continued to be a primary cause of homelessness. Job loss and alcohol or drug abuse were also common self-reported causes.

Of course, the new figures come amid the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout in Hawaii that officials fear could result in dramatic increases in homelessness.

The official unemployment rate in Hawaii exceeds 22%, and there’s no timeline for reopening the tourism industry that’s been shut down for months.

The governor has instituted a moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent. But that moratorium will eventually expire and, right now at least, it doesn’t absolve renters of payments that they miss.

Worth noting: The governor had pledged to end homelessness by 2020, a goal he subsequently acknowledged was overly ambitious.

The point-in-time count also found:

  • 1 in 4 of those surveyed reported a mental health problem
  • 12% were age 60 or older
  • 10% were veterans
  • 28% of Oahu’s homeless said they had a physical or developmental disability

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