Outreach workers see growing number of homeless living in cars

Outreach workers look to help growing number of homeless living in cars
Published: Apr. 21, 2016 at 8:52 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 21, 2016 at 10:34 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

On Thursday morning, cars pack the parking lot at Ala Moana Beach Park. It's Rayna Brown's job to search out the cars that double as homes.

"Sometimes you don't know they're homeless until you walk up to the car," said Brown, of the Institute for Human Services.

Making rounds to search out the homeless living in cars is new, and it's partly in response to a growing trend.

Since the start of the year, IHS has received 65 referrals about homeless living in cars.

Service providers can only guess how many people are living like this. That's because the yearly point and time count doesn't track the information. Instead, homeless spotted living in cars are counted among the unsheltered homeless.

Advocates for the homeless also say that people who live in their cars are always on the move -- parking at beach parks, shopping centers, churches and side streets. Many have jobs, which means it's even tougher to find them during working hours.

Betty Dunn, who was parked at Ala Moana Beach Park on Thursday, became homeless two years ago, after leaving an abusive relationship. She was able to save up enough money to get a car in February.

"This is way better than a tent, but it's not my home in Ewa Beach," Dunn said. "I have a burner stove that I use. I have a cooler over there."

Dunn said she likes move to different places.

"Somewhere that's busy. I park where there's cars going. I feel a little safer," she said.

On Thursday, IHS workers found about a dozen people living in seven cars scattered throughout the park. The numbers rise at night.

Although most of the people spotted living in their cars Thursday were singles or couples, families make up the majority of those that IHS helped over the past year.

Case workers added that referrals are helpful in pinpointing areas that outreach teams need to target. To make a referral, click here or call 447-2800.

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