Hawaii trails national average for housing homeless veterans

Hawaii trails national average for housing homeless veterans
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
Jack Martin (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Jack Martin (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When Jack Martin left the Navy his world got shipwrecked and he ended up homeless.

He lived in his car until he found help at U.S. Vets.

"I got to a point where I let stress and outside influences and all kinds of stuff just give me a pretty bad attitude towards life for awhile," he said.

Before he got into the U.S. Vets program, Martin was among the scores of homeless military veterans trying to survive in Hawaii.  The number is decreasing, but not as fast as the national average.

On Monday, the Obama administration released new numbers that show from January 2015 to January 2016 the total number of homeless veterans in America fell by 17 percent.

But in Hawaii the drop was only 3 percent.

"You're going to see in a lot of the cities across the nation, when they make a dent in it, the biggest dent comes from the those that have affordable housing," U.S. Vets chief operating officer Darryl Vincent said.

He believes Hawaii trails the national average because many service members elect to stay here when they're discharged. When they can't meet Hawaii's high cost of living they wind up on the street or in shelters.

Partners in Care executive director Jen Stasch said the goal is to reach "level zero."

"There are individuals out there that may not be housed. That's why we call it "level zero," which is where we want to get everybody housed that wants a home," she said.

The latest Point in Time count showed as of January, Oahu's homeless veteran population dropped by 12 percent and rose by 14 percent on the neighbor islands.

But figures compiled by the Mayor's Office of Housing show an even bigger decline in Honolulu. In January 2015 Oahu listed 473 veterans as homeless.

"Today we have 197. It shows a 58 percent reduction in our homeless veteran population," Jun Yang said.

That is not reflected in President Obama's homeless count.

Martin has been getting counseling and help from U.S. Vets for a year. He's three months away from qualifying for permanent housing.

Hawaii U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard issued the following statement on the news:

While today's announcement marks national progress, it unfortunately does not reflect the difficulties our Hawaii veterans continue to face. According to HUD's data released today, Hawaii's progress to reduce veteran homelessness over the past year is one of the lowest in the country. Allowing our nation's heroes to return home after serving our country, only to find themselves left sleeping on our streets is unacceptable. We must take urgent action to end the homeless crisis facing our state.

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