Report: Hawaii homeless population continues to grow

Report: Hawaii homeless population continues to grow
Published: Jun. 29, 2016 at 3:52 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 29, 2016 at 9:53 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For a fifth consecutive year, homelessness grew in Hawaii in 2016, a homeless point-in-time count released Wednesday shows.

Some 7,921 homeless were counted statewide on a single night in January, up 4 percent from 2015.

Of the total, more than half were unsheltered.

The figures come amid a statewide push to address homelessness, a crisis that's attracted national attention.

Homeless advocates have said a lack of affordable housing in the islands remains the single biggest reason so many find themselves on the streets.

They also say the count likely far under-estimates the total number of people who are homeless.

According to the new figures, homeless on Oahu accounted for more than 62 percent of the state's total homeless population. On Oahu, 4,940 homeless were counted, up 1 percent from the year before.

Kauai saw a 30 percent increase in the number of homeless, with a total of 442 people on the streets.

On the Big Island, 1,394 homeless were counted, up 12 percent from the year before.

Officials think they have an explanation for the big uptick in homeless counted on Kauai and the Big Island.

"The people were already there, just that this year they improved their point-in-time county process and were able to identify more individuals," said Maude Cumming, of Bridging the Gap.

Other key findings in this year's count:

  • The state saw a 12 percent increase in the number of unsheltered individuals and families
  • There was a 4.5 percent decrease in the number of sheltered individuals and families
  • The total number of homeless on Oahu is up 25 percent from 2009, when 3,638 homeless were counted.

The annual homeless count is conducted by homeless outreach specialists and volunteers on a single night January.

The system used for gathering data in these counts has been criticized as inaccurate because it relies on interviews with people volunteers encounter on the street.

For example, officials with the Department of Education said in January that nearly 3,576 students statewide are homeless. This year's point-in-time count found a little more than half of them.

Homeless who are in the hospital, in jail and people who are couch surfing aren't included in the count.

The numbers are used to help secure funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help Hawaii's homeless.

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