UH study: Youth make up a majority of Hawaii's hidden homeless

Published: Apr. 21, 2018 at 4:36 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 21, 2018 at 5:03 PM HST
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KALIHI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii's homeless crisis is hitting young people particularly hard.

According to a University of Hawaii study, youth between the ages of 12 and 17 are at a higher risk than adults of becoming homeless.

Penitila Famoe was just 15 when he left his home in Kalihi in search of a place he felt safe.

"I had problems at home," said Famoe. "I didn't feel comfortable there cause of like what was going on."

A friend immediately took him in.

"I told him to come over to my house. He could stay over," said Malik Lokeni.

But after two months things got too crowded and Famoe had to leave. Despite having a place to stay, Malik LoKeni left too so his friend wouldn't be alone on the street. Some nights they slept at a bus stop. Other nights they stayed with friends.

"Couch surfing hides a lot of the homeless. Especially among youth," said the executive director of Institute for Human Services, Connie Mitchell.

Mitchell says most homeless youth aren't getting the help they need. Right now there is only one shelter equipped to serve unaccompanied minors on Oahu.

Because many of these children aren't always in plain sight, she says it's impossible to know how many are actually out there.  
"They don't count them in the point in time count. So our count is basically an under-count of people who are actually homeless," said Mitchell.

After a year in limbo Lokeni went home after Famoe moved in with his uncle.

"Going there I feel welcome again," said Famoe.

Now the pair talks openly about their experience sharing their story with service providers and lawmakers in hopes shedding light on the issue.

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