More homeless people than ever — 14,954 — sought homeless services across the islands in the 2015 fiscal year, representing an increase of 4.7 percent, according to a study released Thursday.
The study by the Center on the Family at the University of Hawaii-Manoa and the Homeless Programs Office of the state Department of Human Services paints a gloomy picture for a state struggling to reduce the largest per capita homeless population in the country.
It found that 672 more homeless people sought services compared with the previous year.
The only positive sign was a 1.8 percent decline in the 3,494 homeless children who accessed services.
The drop among homeless children represented “the good news” in the study, said Sarah Yuan, an associate specialist with the Center on the Family who was one of the authors.
Even then, Yuan said, “the decrease is very little. That’s the only category we saw a drop — and the drop is very small.”
The study represents another perspective on Hawaii’s homeless population and comes on the eve of the June release of the annual “point-in-time” survey of Hawaii’s homeless who were counted in January as part of a nationwide homeless census.
Last year’s point-in-time count found 7,620 homeless people across the state, up from 6,918 the year before. Oahu had 4,903 homeless people counted, up from 4,712 from the preceding year.
The point-in-time count takes a one-day snapshot of each community’s homeless population, while the so-called “Homeless Service Utilization Report” released Thursday looks at how many individual homeless people accessed services over an entire year.
The state’s homeless service system assisted 3,257 people to get permanent housing.
Only 20.8 percent of chronically homeless people found permanent housing last year.
“It’s not like no one is getting help,” Yuan said. “The system is helping thousands of people to find permanent housing. But we’re not doing it fast enough.”
Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator, said Thursday’s study will help Gov. David Ige’s administration determine how $12 million in new homeless legislative funding will be spent.
“Data from the service utilization report is helpful to help the state better target our resources,” Morishige said. “It will help us to understand which services are most effective at helping connect individuals or families to permanent housing. The data will help guide our discussions regarding the use of the $12 million appropriation moving forward as we continue to meet with different departments and state agencies.”
The study found that more homeless people among various demographic categories sought help last year.
The biggest gain — 9.9 percent — was seen among 8,250 homeless adults, who represented 740 more homeless adults seeking services than the year before.
And newly homeless people represented 38 percent of everyone who sought homeless services, accounting for 5,717 homeless clients.
They were more likely to be children under the age of 6 or young adults between the ages of 18 and 24, according to the study.
Most of the newly homeless households — 54 percent — were helped through social service outreach services, followed by homeless shelters (41 percent).
Just under half of all new adult homeless — 48.5 percent — had been Hawaii residents for 10 years or more.
Just under 24 percent of newly homeless adults on Hawaii island, Kauai and Maui had lived in the state within 12 months.
The single biggest number of newly homeless households — 482 — reported having a last permanent residence in the Waianae ZIP code of 96792.