Statewide survey underway to count Hawaii's homeless

Published: Jan. 26, 2016 at 2:48 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2016 at 10:26 AM HST
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WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Homeless outreach specialists and volunteers walked for hours all over the state on Monday counting the homeless for the annual Point-in-Time Count.

Rayna Brown, Outreach Specialist for the Institute for Human Services, said it's a requirement in order to acquire federal funding for Hawaii's homeless population.

"It's important because when we go out there, we find out what kind of needs these people have. Like some may have substance abuse problems, some may have mental health problems, some may have both," Brown said.

A group of about 20 people geared up under the trees of Kapiolani Park in Waikiki Monday evening then broke up into three separate teams. One-by-one they approached various homeless people asking a specific question.

"Where did you sleep last night?"

If they answer a friend's house or family member's house, the Q and A is over. But if they say a street, or beach, or park, etc., the survey continues.

Last year, Oahu's homeless population rose to roughly 4,900. The number of unsheltered family individuals jumped to 285, which is an increase of 52-percent from the year before.

State Homeless Coordinator Scott Morishige said the numbers aren't entirely accurate.

"The numbers may go up because I think every year we get a little bit better at our methodology. Just because you see an increase doesn't mean the number of homeless people in our community is actually growing.  It's just that we're getting a little bit more accurate in counting homeless individuals and knowing where they are," Morishige said.

Timothy Schuh is one of the homeless who participated in this year's survey. He said he has been homeless in Hawaii for about 10 years.

"It's just hard to hold a job here and have housing and have medical, but I do what I can," Schuh said.

Schuh said he has no plans to go to a shelter and organizers hope this count will boost funding to help people like Schuh end their days on the streets.

The count will continue until January 29, 2016 in various parts of the state and the numbers will be released later in the year.

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