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Despite pandemic, homelessness has increased only slightly on Neighbor Islands since 2020

A report released Thursday shows homelessness on the Neighbor Islands hasn’t changed much over the last two years and on Maui actually decreased.
Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 4:30 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 7, 2022 at 6:48 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Despite the big impact of the pandemic on Hawaii’s working families — and their finances — a report released Thursday shows homelessness on the Neighbor Islands hasn’t changed much over the last two years and on Maui actually decreased.

Data collected in the 2022 Point-in-Time Count shows overall homelessness on the Neighbor Islands is up less than 1% since 2020. On Jan. 23, volunteers counted a total of 2022 homeless people in Kauai, Maui and Hawaii islands. That’s both people living on the street and in shelters.

Here’s the island-by-island break down:

  • Maui actually saw a 6% decrease in homelessness since 2020.
  • Kauai and Big Island both saw about a 5% increase during that same time period.
Homeless Point in Time Count
Homeless Point in Time Count(Hawaii News Now)

“I think we were surprised by how small it (the increase) was considering COVID and all the economic hardship. I think a lot of that was because there were some extra resources that came into the community,” said Paul Norman, executive director for the Neighborhood Place of Puna.

He said more than $27 million was distributed in rent, mortgage and utility assistance during the pandemic on Hawaii Island alone.

The biggest takeaway, he said, is “additional resources work.”

Norman added the Hawaii County Council recently enacted an ordinance that takes a percentage of property tax on homes worth more than $2 million and puts it towards affordable housing.

“Really, it’s about housing,” Norman said.

Other notable statistics from the report.

  • Overall, the number of homeless families on the Neighbor Islands is down 18% compared to two years ago.
  • There are also fewer homeless veterans. That, too, is down 18%.
  • The number of unaccompanied youth who are homeless is also down 32%.

It’s the first time in two years there’s been new insight into just how many people are experiencing homelessness in Hawaii. That’s because last year’s count was cancelled due to COVID.

Oahu’s homeless count was conducted in March. There’s no word on when those numbers will be released.

To read the full report, click here.

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