Effort to count every homeless in the state underway

Published: Jan. 23, 2018 at 3:39 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 23, 2018 at 11:19 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hundreds of volunteers spent Monday night fanning out across the state for the annual 'point-in-time' homeless count.

It's required by the federal government and occurs at the end of January.

The number of people counted will help determine how much federal funding Hawaii gets to fight homelessness.

"The goal is to get as accurate a count as possible," said Scott Morishige, the state's homeless coordinator.

In 2017, volunteers tallied a total of 7,220 homeless people statewide, a 9 percent drop from the year before and the first decrease the state has seen in eight years.

Still, Hawaii holds the highest rate of homelessness per capita in the country.

In addition to 13 federally mandated questions, volunteers asked additional questions about gender and sexual identity.

"LGBT folks, especially young LGBT folks, face another set of problems when they're on the street," said volunteer Aashish Hemrajani. "So it's important to capture what that demographic looks like."

One area volunteers canvassed was alongside the Nimitz viaduct.

Last fall, the state spent $4 million cleaning up the area and installing fences and cameras to keep people out.

"We do know sometimes when there have been clean up efforts, homeless people may relocate to other areas," said Morishige.

While campers move from place to place, the problem has stayed the same.

When the results of this year's point in time count are released in a few months, state officials will be able to determine if last year's drop is just a fluke or the beginning of a trend.

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