Homeless census needs more volunteers
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Hawaii News

Homeless census needs more volunteers

  • STAR-ADVERTISER
                                Scott Morishige: 
                                He says people who want to help but do not want to go out in the field may donate gift cards and toiletries

    STAR-ADVERTISER

    Scott Morishige:

    He says people who want to help but do not want to go out in the field may donate gift cards and toiletries

With less than three weeks to go, the organizers of this year’s annual head count of Oahu’s homeless population still need about 350 volunteers to avoid last year’s poor coordination.

But Jen Stasch, the new director of Partners in Care, which is coordinating the homeless census on Oahu, promises that “we have better organization this year,” adding, “We have a centralized, collaborative approach that we didn’t see in years prior.”

The upcoming Point in Time Count will require about 500 volunteers on Oahu. But so far only 150 or so have signed up, said Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator.

Even as training begins for some volunteers, Morishige said Partners in Care will continue to recruit more people to fan out across seven regions on Oahu during the week of Jan. 23 to ask a critical question: “Where did you sleep the night of Jan. 22?”

LEND A HAND

Partners in Care needs 500 volunteers needed to count Oahu’s homeless

To get involved, call Aloha United Way’s 211 helpline or visit the Partners in Care website at www.partnersincareoahu.org/2017-point-time-count-oahu.

Homeless shelters will add their bed counts from the night of Jan. 22 to come up with an overall picture of how many people on Oahu lack permanent housing at that moment.

Last year’s Point in Time Count found that Oahu’s homeless population increased by 37 people in one year, representing a gain of less than 1 percent. Oahu’s overall homeless numbers grew from 4,903 in 2015 to 4,940 in 2016.

Last year no one coordinated the census, Stasch said.

“Each region had its own approach,” she said. “There wasn’t a complete, consistent effort across the board.”

On the first night of last year’s Point in Time Count, 50 volunteers were expected at one Honolulu location, but only 17 showed up. The following night, 20 volunteers were expected but only three appeared.

“Some had plenty, others didn’t have enough volunteers,” said Stasch, who was living in San Francisco at the time.

The nationwide snapshot of America’s homeless population plays a role in how much homeless funding communities receive through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which last year awarded a $9.4 million HUD grant for Oahu’s homeless efforts.

Locally, Morishige said the homeless census provides “an opportunity for people who want to understand this issue to go out with a team of trained outreach workers and get firsthand knowledge of the needs of homeless people in their specific community.”

People who want to help — but do not want to interact directly with homeless people — may still contribute by donating gift cards of $5 or so, or toiletries, that outreach workers can distribute to build relationships with the homeless, Morishige said.

City Councilman Ikaika Anderson criticized last year’s Point in Time Count for its poor communication, outreach and training.

But Anderson, whose Windward district stretches from Waimanalo to Ahuimanu, has been pleased by the changes he’s seen so far from Partners in Care.

“Partners in Care has made a solid effort in improving the accuracy of the Point in Time Count versus last year,” Anderson said. “They’ve been letting people know when training will occur, how to get involved, coming to neighborhood board meetings, communicating with my office.”

“It’s definitely a good sign,” Anderson said.

Last year Anderson said he found out days before the Point in Time Count that the effort still needed volunteers. People who were willing to help could not get information, “and nearly all weren’t trained,” he said.

Done correctly, Anderson said, an accurate Point in Time Count gives government officials and residents a clearer understanding of the size of each community’s homeless population and specific needs.

“The Point in Time Count is but one tool that’s available to get as accurate as possible the number of unsheltered folks in our community,” Anderson said. “When we get an accurate number, it helps us as government, and it helps the nonprofit folks get a handle on the amount of services that are necessary, how many people we have to provide services to.”

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