A new study said today that Honolulu has the largest number of homeless of any small U.S. city, underscoring the seriousness of Hawaii’s homeless problem.
There were more than 4,900 homeless in Honolulu, according to a report released by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development. The number represents those counted on one night in January.
Kimo Carvalho, a spokesman for the Institute for Human Services, the state’s largest provider of services to homeless, said the population of people without a place to live is likely even higher. He said that’s because some homeless would have been couch-surfing at the time or otherwise not in sight of the people conducting the count.
Coming in second for small cities was the Santa Ana and Anaheim area of Orange County, California. The study defines a small city as one not among the 50 largest U.S. cities and not in a rural area.
New York City had the largest homeless population of any U.S. city.
Among small cities, the data show Honolulu has the largest number of chronically homeless individuals — someone who has been either continuously homeless for a year or who has been without a place to live four times in the last three years.
Scott Morishige, the governor’s coordinator on homelessness, said the state, city and service providers have made significant progress to address the problem, including helping over half of the people in the Kakaako homeless camp move to permanent housing or shelter.
The number of homeless veterans has declined to 55 from 149 at the beginning of the year, Morishige said. The state aims to have all veterans housed by the end of the year, he said.
Since July last year, the state has also been able to house just under 300 people through the "Housing First" program, which provides homes and services to chronically homeless individuals without requiring them to get sober or mental illness treatment first.
"These are some of the chronically homeless, difficult to house individuals, who have been on the street for a very long period of time who have very significant mental health or substance abuse challenges," Morishige said. "And we’ve been able to get them in permanent housing."