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Isles’ homeless population grows

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Veteran Leah Bartolome, left, pictured with her former caseworker, Kainani Kahunanui from HCAP-Kumuhonua, was able to move from the streets into an apartment through a VA housing voucher. Bartolome also just got a part-time job.

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Hawaii, which already has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in America, saw its homeless population jump another 4 percent between January 2015 and January 2016, but officials revealing the data see signs of progress.

Statewide, the numbers went from 7,620 homeless people to 7,921, representing the fifth annual increase since 2011, according to Partners in Care and Bridging the Gap, which on Wednesday released the results of the annual nationwide survey conducted the week of Jan. 25.


To read the full Point in Time Count, visit 808ne.ws/293ZtGI.

“We want to see the numbers go down, obviously,” said Marc Gannon, chairman of Partners in Care.

Federal officials in the fall are expected to review all of the homeless counts from around the country and determine whether Hawaii still leads the nation in per capita homeless.

During the week of Jan. 25, volunteers fanned out along Hawaii’s beaches, bushes and homeless encampments to ask one question, Gannon said.

“’Where did you sleep on the night of Jan. 24, 2016?’ That simple question … resulted in the statewide Point in Time Count of 7,921 homeless persons,” Gannon said.

At a news conference announcing the numbers, Gannon said positive signs contained in the data “further validates the need for continued coordination and collaboration across the board,” adding, “We all have the responsibility to come together and work together to address this issue.”

Gannon was optimistic at the fact that Hawaii saw only a 4 percent increase compared with the year before, when the numbers increased by 10 percent. Between 2013 and 2014, the numbers had jumped by 9 percent.

In this year’s count, Oahu saw an increase of 37 additional homeless people, representing a gain of less than 1 percent. Oahu’s overall homeless population grew from 4,903 last year to 4,940 this year.

Homeless people who were counted in 2015 and again last January are considered “repeaters.”

And Gannon said it’s “significant” that 14 percent of the Oahu repeaters were located in town, compared with 38 percent in Waianae, which had the greatest concentration of repeaters.

In a statement, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said: “While even a 1 percent increase in overall homelessness on Oahu is frustrating, the current Point in Time Count shows less of an increase than previous years. This is a direct result of the city’s expansion of the Housing First program, the innovative Hale Mauliola Housing Navigation Center at Sand Island, our efforts with homeless veterans and our property acquisitions.”

He continued: “Working with the City Council, we are investing in properties from Makiki to Waianae, and just purchased a four-story warehouse in Iwilei for a new drop-in hygiene center and units for the chronically homeless. Meanwhile, our relentless enforcement efforts to keep sidewalks, parks and other public areas free of encampments and stored property has improved the effectiveness of outreach efforts for homeless service providers.”

Council Chairman Ernie Martin said in a statement that “the numbers seem to indicate a more stable situation on Oahu, but it is disappointing to see even a slight increase in our homeless population,” adding, “It’s tough to see families living in tents on the side of the road while we build more high-end and market-rate housing. We need tens of thousands of affordable units to effectively reduce the number of people living on the street, a number that has risen every year since 2009. Permanent supportive housing built by private and nonprofit developers can dramatically increase our inventory of affordable housing for families earning less than 50 percent of the area median income.”

The neighbor islands, which have much smaller numbers of homeless people compared to Oahu, also saw their homeless populations increase. On Kauai, the tally shot up by 30 percent.

But Maude Cumming, chairwoman of Bridging the Gap, which handled neighbor island data, said the 103 additional people counted on the Garden Isle was the result of more people being identified through increased social service outreach efforts “rather than a natural increase in numbers.”

Like Kauai, Hawaii island also saw better cooperation among social service providers and greater outreach that counted 153 more people this year — representing a 12 percent increase in the Big Island’s homeless count, Cumming said.

“In both places there is unprecedented collaboration,” she said.

On Hawaii island, surveyors also counted people who were living in tents on family-owned property “who, by definition, meet the criteria” of being homeless, Cumming said. “They met the definition, so they were counted.”

Maui’s homeless population increased by eight people to 1,145, representing a gain of less than 1 percent.

On Maui, Cumming said, “We’re doing a better job of transitioning families into permanent housing, especially from shelters.”

Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator, and his counterpart for the city, Jun Yang, both said that the combined efforts to find housing for 747 homeless veterans on Oahu since January 2015 represent a model for reducing Hawaii’s overall homeless population.

“It’s a significant sign of the progress we’ve made,” Morishige said. “We need to continue to focus on the big picture.”

Yang said the efforts of outreach workers have resulted in the tracking of 220 currently homeless veterans on Oahu, who are being encouraged to move off the street.

In his statement, Caldwell said, “I’m grateful to see a 12 percent decrease in homeless veterans on Oahu, in part due to our intense effort with Michelle Obama’s Mayors Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness.”

He added: “Going into this Independence Day weekend, we are reminded of our duty to support those who have served our nation, and I’m proud of the success of this partnership with the first lady, HUD and the VA, local landlords and Oahu service providers to help our veterans off city streets. Through our dedicated service providers, we will keep reaching out to former service members who are in need of help.”

Andrew Dahlburg, homeless program manager for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Health Care for Homeless Veterans program, said “it’s no accident” that the efforts to help homeless veterans on Oahu paid off. The same persistent effort is being applied across the islands and across all segments of Hawaii’s homeless.

“We all have our eyes on the ball,” Dahlburg said.

Leah Bartolome, a 64-year-old veteran of the Army, Navy and National Guard, cried as she spoke at the news conference about her journey out of homelessness that ended in November when she moved into a 600-square-foot studio apartment at Beretania Street and Kalakaua Avenue through a VA housing voucher.

And Tuesday, Bartolome got a part-time job doing maintenance work around her new home. “I got responsibilities now,” Bartolome told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser with a laugh.

But when it came to the topic of Hawaii’s growing homeless population, Bartolome grew serious.

“That’s too many people to be homeless,” she said. “How come the numbers can’t go down?”

Then in the next moment, Bartolome answered her own question, contending that the ongoing efforts will have little effect on individuals who do not want to leave the street.

“They have to want to change,” Bartolome said. “You can’t do it for them.”

29 responses to “Isles’ homeless population grows”

  1. Alohaguy96734 says:

    Kirk Caldwell has done close to nothing to effectively address homelessness. He bragged and did a photo op for his 70 people in shipping containers on Sand Island, but this is a drop in the bucket considering there is an estimated 5000 homeless on Oahu. Now he talks about a new service center he plans—right before the election. What have you done the last 4 years? Not much. A few useless sweeps that just moved people around.

    • what says:

      In the still of the night, while the occupants sleep, he secretly plans to close up the containers and load them onto a ship to the mainland. Like freight.

    • Allaha says:

      I do not believe the official numbers, there are many more already. Hey liberal do-gooders, open your wallets and build free housing for over 5000 people , and by the time you are finished and your wallets are empty another 5000 will have already appeared.

    • HawaiiCheeseBall says:

      What about the 1130 people in the City’s Housing First Program

    • Shawn211 says:

      Alohaguy-what makes you think it’s the mayors problem? It’s the whole State of Hawaii problem. Homeless has been around even before you were born. Get real do your homework !!

      • Alohaguy96734 says:

        I work with the homeless so I have a little more than armchair knowledge. And if you think the homeless situation here now is anything like it was twenty years ago, you’re wrong. I do agree that the State has been leaderless on this issue as well. If this is allowed to continue unchecked, people will no longer go to Waikiki as a destination (who would want to go to a beach with after the homeless use it–the sand—as a toilet? And that’s what’s happening right now). Once tourism in Waikiki tanks, so do jobs and the economy.

    • Vector says:

      Mayor Kirk Caldwell has supported the rail metro project for years. Affordable housing and affordable rentals are now being planned or now being built around the rail stations, all 22 stations. 20,000 to 30,000 affordable housing and rental units will be built if the rail metro goes all the way to Ala Moana Center. Affordable high rise housing is now being built at the rail station in Kakaako on Ward across from Sports Authority. On Halekauwila St. near South St. an affordable highrise rental building has been built and another large building nearby will also have affordable high and low rise housing and rentals. The rail metro station shares the same block as this affordable housing and commercial development. Another high rise affordable housing and rental complex is already on the drawing boards, and it will be at the rail station on Dillingham Blvd, across from Honolulu Community College. The old swap meet site in Pearlridge, near the Pearlridge station will also have affordable housing and rentals. The State is also looking into building affordable housing and rentals around the Stadium rail station. Honolulu will finally begin to significantly reduce homelessness, and make more housing and rentals affordable for many.

      • Vector says:

        Forgot to add, the cost for houses, condos, and rentals keeps escalating, due to not enough available buildable land in Hawaii, and not enough units being built, and people competing with one another for the very limited supply of housing and rentals. Many people are being squeezed out of roof over their heads, by these high housing and rental costs, and have to move out of State or end up being homeless. Therefore, the affordable housing and rentals built around the rail stations and along the guide way are a necessity if we are to address housing and rental affordability, and our homeless problem

        • dragoninwater says:

          You mean the Island of Oahu not Hawaiian islands in general. The Big Island has vast swaths of land available and no willing takers either. Go at it, pack your bags and take your bum friends with you. And if you really want to live affordably, move to Detroit, Michigan. There are literally thousands of homes available for $500-$1,000 dollars selling on E-bay, in the classifieds and other auctions! All deeds are free and clear with no liens against them. Have at it, bon voyage, there’s no reason for you and your bum buddies to suffer here any longer.

        • amela says:

          I’ll believe it when I see it. By the way what is affordable to you? $400,000, $500,000 or $600,000.

      • Bean808 says:

        But the 64K question is ……………….will the majority of the homeless be able to pay the rents, live within the rules, etc. When you read that many do prefer the streets as oppose to shelter be it shelter housing or the like what then?

        • dragoninwater says:

          Ignore Vector, he’s a paid rail lobbyist troll. The guy prob lives on the mainland in a multi-million dollar home and has no clue that the homeless can’t afford the so called “affordable housing” that likely starts in the low $400k range let alone pay rent to even afford the smallest studio apartment or even rent a room anywhere on the Island.

      • kekelaward says:

        All of this could have been done without rail and TOD, if the State and City actually cared about the problem, but they don’t and it didn’t get done.

    • amela says:

      The Mayor sure has a way with words. Thought I read somewhere that he helped decrease the count of homeless people and now he says it only went up a percent so that’s good. Kind of like the rail went up by 5 billion but at lease we kept it from rising to 7 billion, for now at least.

  2. Publicbraddah says:

    Let’s help the homeless who WANT to be helped. Let’s increase mental health services for those who NEED it. Let’s return those who came here to enjoy our benefits at taxpayer expense BACK to where they came from. For those who don’t want to be responsible (urinate and defecate anywhere they please), let’s stop their welfare checks until they EARN it. Very fed up with that last group. There is no free lunch in this lifetime.

  3. Allaha says:

    It will get so bad, you will wiggle your ears and want to go to another planet: Defecation lawlessness everywhere, and criminals have no address and cannot be caught. This situation warrants action so radical and strict that all the liberals and conservatives would scream with dismay. But without radical action which is not yet allowed to publish here this civilization is doomed.

  4. nippy68 says:

    Politicians making it harder for the common family to make it here in the islands especially the locals who where here ever since when. Soon the islands will be the playground for the rich.

    • SHOPOHOLIC says:

      Ah but the choo choo GET is a FAIR and bearable tax that EVERYONE is happy to pay their share of in the happy dance towards oblivion, according to some shills here on these pages…

  5. Allaha says:

    Hey Staradvertiser, don’t show us the 1% cases which are somewhat decent people, show us the other 99% bad ones. Oh, but you can’t because those do not want to show their faces.

  6. ryan02 says:

    It’s only going to get worse. Much, much worse. There’s a new report published in “Nature – International Weekly Journal of Science” that scientists say the Paris climate agreement is already not good enough. The window to prevent catastrophic climate change that the Paris agreement was based on, is gone. And there are countries already drawing up relocation plans because of climate change. And, SURPRISE! – the low-laying islands and atolls in Micronesia are among them. They are planning to move to Hawaii and Arkansas (I kid you not, Arkansas). Yet, Hawaii’s politicians refuse to acknowledge this. In an expensive report the Hawaii Tourism Authority paid for (at the time, headed up by Gov. Ige’s Chief of Staff, Mike McCartney) that was supposed to address the impact of climate change on Hawaii, did not mention Micronesia AT ALL. Either the people involved were totally incompetent, or the report was carefully censored for political reasons – or possibly a combination of both. My point is, Hawaii is deliberately refusing to acknowledge a growing problem, and you can’t fix a problem if you won’t acknowledge it. Hawaii is doomed. I’m just sorry I lived long enough to see it happen – and I feel especially sorry for future generations. The best thing your kids and grandkids can do is move away.

    • dragoninwater says:

      Of Course they will keep quit as they already made their agenda public. Caldwell needs lots of ridership on his new choo-choo. He’ll let in every Micronesian, illegal Mexican and Syrian refugee imaginable just to to meet the ridership quotas, even if that means we run out of drinking water and food! He’ll stop at nothing to scam us out of everything we have left!

  7. fiveo says:

    I think most people instinctively know that the homeless are vastly undercounted and the true number is over 10,000 and counting.
    There maybe no real future for many here in Hawaii anymore other than for the rich, and the political elite and their cronies.
    Look for masses of people living in converted shipping containers as the norm while the well heeled continue living well. Kind of like going back to the old plantation days
    where the workers lived in camps while the plantation managers lived in very nice homes.
    I know that these days, people wax nostalgic about the old days, but it was not all that good for most.

  8. saveparadise says:

    We have beautiful weather and climate in Hawaii. As long as you can get away sleeping in the parks and on the sidewalks you can use most of your welfare check for drugs and alcohol. Free food provided at Salvation Army and similar organizations that think they are doing good. If there are no requirements for freebies and entitlements guess what? Correctomundo, these people will do absolutely nuthin till lightning strikes them.

    • Allaha says:

      Our politicians are clueless. They have coddled that bad population too long already: Their numbers have been allowed to grow beyond the point of return, just like illegal immigration.

      • dragoninwater says:

        Exactly, they fed the wild animals too long and now the wild animals refuse to return to their normal habitat. Just like prisoners have done in in prisons, soon the bums will demand caviar, foie gras and demand the officials build them new homes free of charge but at tax payers expense after the county gets sued for not providing for their welfare. As ridiculous as it sounds I can see it coming just like it happened in the prison system.

  9. gsc says:

    Multiplying just like Cockaroaches !

  10. xxNOTxx says:

    If the other states would stop sending their homeless here so we can take care of our own then I wouldn’t have a problem—but either send the out of state homeless back to the states from where they came from or charge the states a substantial fee so they stop sending their homeless here. I’m sick of funding out of state homeless and everyone else should be—-when is the State going to smell the coffee and wake up

  11. Blunt says:

    Some programs to help homeless are just a waste
    By Andrew Rothstein
    July 20, 2016

    I strongly recommend that people read “The Tragedy of American Compassion” to get a more detailed understanding of what I say below.

    There are four causes of homelessness, three of which are: substance abuse and mental defect, both of which prevent a person from holding a job that would enable him to afford decent housing, and life upset (loss of job, high medical expenses or incapacitation).

    The first two are bad candidates for the cheap housing response because they can’t or won’t maintain the properties or stay in them. People who treat substance abusers know that absent an acknowledgment of their situation and a desire to correct it, substance abusers cannot be cured. As much as people in the business would have us believe otherwise, mental illness also is rarely curable.

    The third is the group that most of the politicians point to as the reason for providing such housing and some of these may actually be helped by it. However, one has to look to the cause of their situation: How many of them didn’t pay attention in school and never learned the skills necessary in our information-age society to earn enough to afford decent housing and set aside sufficient savings or pay for adequate health insurance?

    Government programs are a poor choice because they can’t discriminate between those who really want to cease being homeless and those who don’t.

    Programs proposed to help the homeless (free or low cost housing, free food, ignoring the laws about obstructing public property, failure to prosecute for destruction of private property) have led to the fourth cause of homelessness: bums — people who have made the rational decision to not get saddled with a job in order to pay rent. They’d rather live in tents on property they have converted for their own use.

    By trying to ease the lives of the other three categories, we make it more desirable for this fourth one. Does anyone bother to find out why the people counted in the homeless census are in that situation or where they are from?

    Someone who was in a position to know told me that every summer, the number of people living on the beaches of Kauai balloons as mainland college students fly to Hawaii to spend their free time in paradise. Should we be spending our hard-earned tax dollars supporting them?

    The homeless are a detriment to our society. They leave trash, needles and excrement spread out over the ground. The crime column in the newspaper is replete with crimes committed by persons “of no local address.” They destroy private property by stomping and laying in the landscaping. They deface property: See the graffiti they left behind on the Smith-Beretania Park’s wall before the police finally rousted them.

    Commentary on the homeless exists as far back as the founding years of our country. The homeless will always exist. While we can try to help them, we must realize some programs work and others simply are a waste of resources.

    Andrew Rothstein has been a real estate appraiser in Hawaii for over 40 years; he served on the Downtown Neighborhood Board from 1988 to 1994.

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