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More families at risk of homelessness than expected


    State money through Aloha United Way has helped more people than expected and showed how many residents are living on the edge of homelessness. Peggy was among those who received aid and is giving back by serving as a Salvation Army bell ringer. Alan and Tricia Baleto drop money in the bucket.

Since April far more households than imagined — 792 — were at risk of becoming homeless in the islands. But it took only a one-time payment of $1,046, on average, to keep them from ending up on the streets.

The sheer number of families at risk of becoming homeless surprised officials at Aloha United Way, who have been tasked by the state Department of Human Services to distribute $4.7 million in state money across the islands to get homeless people housed and, just as important, keep families in their homes through one-time rental subsidies.

The original goal in early 2016 was to evenly distribute the money between the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless as Hawaii struggled with the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the country.

But most homeless people applying for the state aid through AUW do not have enough steady income to ensure they can continue paying for their rental units once the one-time subsidy runs out.

So 73 percent of the money continues to go to families at risk of becoming homeless to keep them housed.


Number of households at risk of becoming homeless who received state money through Aloha United Way to stay in their homes

Average one-time payment that went to at-risk families

Number of people homeless or at risk of becoming homeless who were originally expected to be helped by $4.7 million in state money

Actual number of people who received financial help

Amount of state money that AUW has left to distribute to help homeless people or those at risk of becoming homeless

“We had no idea how big that population was,” said Cindy Adams, AUW’s president and CEO. “A lot of people are one paycheck away from becoming homeless. It’s a reflection of the cost of living in Hawaii.”

Nine months of data since AUW began distributing the state money through 20 agencies has blown up many of the original assumptions about who would be helped.

The original goal was to give money to 2,900 individuals who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. But as of Friday 3,410 people had received aid.

And while more people were helped than had been originally expected, AUW still has $1.9 million left to distribute because each family, on average, needed only $1,046 to stay housed.

“That was enlightening,” Adams said. “We’re learning a lot.”

There were other encouraging signs.

Some 92 percent of the 289 homeless households that received financial assistance were still housed after six months, as were 84 percent of homeless individuals.

For the bigger group of 792 households at risk of becoming homeless, 83 percent were still housed after six months, along with 88 percent of individuals who were at risk of becoming homeless.

“That was great to see,” Adams said.

Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator, said AUW’s data is encouraging and is the result of quickly moving state money out through agencies and into the hands of landlords to get — or keep — people housed.

The state might use the AUW model of a “master contractor to effectively get money out” for similar homeless-related projects, Morishige said.

As part of its contract with the state to distribute the $4.7 million, AUW improved its 211 phone system to better identify and help homeless people — or those at risk of becoming homeless — and the system could likely benefit from additional staffing, Morishige said.

“It’s possible that 211 could be at the center of our homeless system,” he said.

A 52-year-old woman from Chuuk who wanted to be identified only by her first name, Patricia, or her nickname, Peggy, did not know where to turn for help in late September when her brother-in-law/landlord moved to the mainland and left her and her family with no place to live.

Patricia has four children ages 12 to 21; a stepdaughter, age 20; and a husband who drives for a tour bus company for $10 an hour.

After a week living in a Waikiki hotel, Patricia said, “We exhausted our finances.”

While relatives took care of her birth children, Patricia, her husband and stepdaughter lived in their Toyota Sienna van for three nights in early October in the parking lot of a Salt Lake church.

“I was scared,” Patricia said. “I had never experienced that kind of life.”

Desperate, Patricia drove around in search of help and pulled into a church on Nimitz Highway.

“I was just driving and praying. … I was scared,” she said. “I never experienced that kind of life. I was worried it would get worse.”

The church referred Patricia to the Salvation Army, which connected her to AUW, which provided $4,300 in one-time help for first month’s rent and a security deposit on a three-bedroom apartment in Waianae.

When she got the keys to her new apartment, “I cried,” Patricia said, tearing up at the memory. “I was very emotional.”

The two oldest children now have jobs and contribute to the rent, and Patricia is looking for full-time employment as an office worker.

In the meantime she volunteered as a Salvation Army bell ringer Friday as a way to give back.

She called the state money that she received through AUW and the Salvation Army “a blessing” and “very encouraging to people who need help.”

Salvation Army Maj. Mark Gilden called the state money “a fantastic return on investment.”

“It’s one of the more streamlined government grant processes I’ve seen,” Gilden said. “It’s common-sense stuff, not tons and tons of bureaucracy.”

Salvation Army caseworkers will continue to work with families such as Patricia’s even after they’re housed to make sure they’re doing all right, Gilden said.

In the meantime he hopes more people like Patricia receive state assistance through AUW to keep them housed.

With relatively little money, the state, AUW and their partner social service agencies have shown that “just a little bit of help now can prevent a huge mess later,” Gilden said.

Correction: The state Department of Human Services contracted Aloha United Way to distribute $4.7 million in state general funds to homeless people and those at risk of becoming homeless to either get homes or stay in their homes. An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that AUW had been tasked by the state Legislature to distribute the money.
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  • Preventive medicine is always less expensive than treating a full-blown illness. Looks like the same principle here. With the cost of rent and the pay scale for so many jobs,I’m not surprised that there are so many families who are “one paycheck away” from homelessness.

    • It’s not going to end with this “one-time payment”. Read the article – it says “most homeless people applying for the state aid through AUW do not have enough steady income to ensure they can continue paying for their rental units once the one-time subsidy runs out”. So they will need more money.

      The real problem is not high rents, property taxes, or high cost of living – It is lack of responsibility on the part of these individuals. Read the article – that one family consists of a mother, 5 CHILDREN, and a husband that makes $10 an hour. These kind of people and their children will be a constant drag on taxpayer money. If we don’t cut them loose to fend for themselves, they’ll never learn to and just leech off the rest of us forever.

    • tutulois, the cost of rent is the consequence of population growth which causes insanely high real estate prices,because people bid up prices. As I always say:Population growth ruins EVERYTHING ! How many kids did you produce?

    • The state gave 4.7 million to help over 3000 people. That’s good. The rail is now 6 billion over budget. What could half of that do for helping the homeless?

  • Too many classical problems, still exist in Hawaii, that have never changed, since the Great Mahele.

    People have to work and fight for, a liveable wage. Real property ownership or rental, will be for the highest bidder. Foreign ownership of land, will be a common standard.

    Many low income people, will always be one financial hairs breath, from eviction.

    • It’s their own fault – man makes $10 an hour and has a wife and 5 KIDS? All they do is create more people who need welfare. Keep giving and they will keep taking. Let them fend for themselves and they might.

      • “And while more people were helped than had been originally expected, AUW still has $1.9 million left to distribute because each family, on average, needed only $1,046 to stay housed.

        “That was enlightening,” Adams said. “We’re learning a lot.”>>> Let me tell you something else you can learn. The majority of these “needy” families were also standing in a movie theater line within the last six months.

  • The homeless population nationwide is about to increase dramatically as Republicans implement their plans to eliminate the Affordable Care Act; reduce welfare, Medicare and Medicaid benefits; and allow employers to abuse their workers. Additionally, their plans to gut the financial sector regulations put in place after the 2008 banking crash will eventually result in another financial crash. But, predictably, the banks and other large corporations will be saved by the corporate welfare system while the rest of us will be left to fall off the financial cliff. If anyone thinks that the recent stock market record closings indicate that the economy is booming needs to recall Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan reminded Americans that the stock market is not the real economy.

    • There is a direct correlation between the sharp decrease of federal funding allocated to affordable housing with the sharp increase in widespread homelessness. So if Trump, the Republican Congress as well as who he appoints as director to the Federal Housing Finance Agency are intent on blocking funding to the national Housing Trust Fund, I’m pretty sure we’ll see a sharp increase in homelessness not just here in Hawaii but across the U.S. as well. Pay particular attention to who Trump will soon appoint as director of the FHFA since he will be given the authority to fund or stop payments to the HTF.

      • Let me boil down your post and the post from whs1966 and correct me if I am wrong. Using your “logic” if enough taxpayer money (sneakily termed federal funding) is directed to affordable housing and the ACA, homelessness can be eliminated. How long will taxpayers be on the hook for housing the homeless and subsidizing ACA? Does this not promote irresponsible behavior?

        • No he said that unchecked greed of employers will allow them to exploit powerless workers using lawyers amd bought and paid politicians. These workers won’t be able to afford housing and Healthcare.

          If Trump crashes the economy by letting the greedy 1% suck the life out of the economy and the middle class, there will be civil unrest. History shows that a population of hungry, sick homeless citizens, awash in firearms, ammunition and conspiracy theories, is a recipe for revolution and societal collapse. #MAGA

        • Wages are kept low by zillions of immigrant labor. Also nobody should receive any help unless they agree to sterilization, so they don’t produce more welfare offspring.

        • Ah there’s Allaha’s eugenics coming out. Have things really gotten so bad that we must resort to sterilizing poor people?

          How about we retrn to a more enlightened tax policy first?

      • CEI is correct that our goal shouldn’t be to create a large class of people who are dependent upon government supports. This is inefficient and demoralizing.

        It must be admitted that there will be always be a smaller group of truly disabled individuals and those who are elderly and impoverished who must depend upon society for care, support and protection. I assume CEI isn’t advocating solutions that require such individuals to do things they are incapable of. That is an irrational policy that will fail.

        What about all those who could be capable of working? How can we create jobs with living wages and benefits so we can safely shrink the size of government programs without crime and unrest? Is there a way to accomplish this while also reducing Government regulation, crime and our bloated criminal justice system?

        Trickle-down tax cuts doesn’t work. It’s been tried, but instead of using their extra money to create jobs, wealthy business owners just pocket more profit, and are incentivised to cut corners, to squeeze more from workers, to avoid capitol improvements, to ship jobs overseas, and to ignore health, safety and environmental risks of that will maximize short-term profits. Selfish greed inflamed low personal income taxes on high earning business owners and executives is at the root of American decline over the past 30 years.

        It is also the cause of our growing national debt, bloated safety net, mass incarceration, failing family values, widening income gap, shrinking middle class, crumbling infrastructure and economic bubbles.

        Low taxes at the top have shifted more wealth to the top 1%, and they have used it to create an obscene luxury economy and to buy/lobby even more concessions from government, and to hire law firms to bully regulators and everyone else.

        This is what unchecked greed has done to the USA. Nearly all the gains in worker productivity, the life-blood of a nation, has been sucked away into off shore banks and squandered on selfish, meaningless luxury for the 1%, while the 99% see their opportunities slipping away. Trump tapped into their fear, but his solution, tax cuts, will inevitably make things worse. Democrats are no better in this regard.

        What is needed are top marginal tax rates on personal income of 80-90% (i.e. on those making above 2-5 $million a year. This was the US tax policy during the nation’s longest period of economic expansion and job creation and middle class growth (1935-1980).

        What won’t work is a luxury economy that works for a few, while a shrinking middle class is forced to care for a growing underclass of unemployed, uneducated, unhealthy and impoverished citizens.

        • Well said. Just want to add that post WW2 the USA was the only industrialized country on the planet that was not in ruins, both in economic terms and structurally. US manufacturers and by extension US workers had a near monopoly on the heavy manufacturing necessary to rebuild. It was a good time for employers, labor unions and workers. When the Japanese, Germans and others recovered the US had competition for the first time in decades and economic expansion began to taper off.

        • The Germans are a great example of an industrialized country that has a sensible tax policy that rewards hard work innovation and investment of profits into businesses (workers and equipment) and educating their population. This has allowed Germany to maintain a strong manufacturing sector growth based on top quality precision products, and the best economy in Europe. Meanwhile American businesses were gobbled up by greedy venture capitalists and cannibalized in a race to the bottom of the quality-cost curve. If sending jobs to low skilled workers overseas maximized short-term profit, this is what they did. Producing cheap goods in China to ship back to the US for sale.

          Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy mean more of the same, and even hit tax cuts on corporations, which would otherwise make sense, will just mean more profits sucked up by the wealthy, more government dependency and more national debt.

          We don’t need more country clubs and golf courses and luxury stores and private prisons, we need more good jobs.

          If Trump wouod deliver on this without civil unrest, I’ll eat his #MAGA hat.

        • DannoBoy wrote “The Germans are a great example of an industrialized country that has a sensible tax policy…” Clearly you’ve never lived there. The typical German tax rate is over 50%. And the government imposes tariffs on non-EU imports and they have a 21% VAT on everything sold retail. The government uses all that tax money to provide some very good services. It’s a socialist country. But as Maggie Thatcher said: The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples’ money. Too bad the tax and spend Democrats will never learn that lesson.

  • What kine family dat? “Peggy, did not know where to turn for help in late September when her brother-in-law/landlord moved to the mainland and left her and her family with no place to live.”

    • Had to move to the mainland for a reason. Housing and cost of living much cheaper than Hawaii. Maybe her family was just smooching off the brother-in-law and he got tired of it.

  • Pretty much a lot of working people with children are 2 months away from being in this situation. That is why, they need to have 2 jobs and sacrifice. It aint easy making it in Hawaii!

    • Yes, it isn’t easy living in Hawaii. My post-retirement job makes life easier. I help my adult children and grandchildren, if necessary. I save every dollar and five-dollar bill that reaches my wallet. At month’s end, this little “emergency fund” comes in handy.

  • 2 families sold their homes in Laie …… moving to Australia, the other to Arkansas….better opportunities.

    send the near homeless to America Samoa……’s a territory of the USA……so they can still get USA benefits.

    • “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”(When the situation becomes difficult, the strong will become engaged.) Knute Rockne, Notre Dame

  • Cannot understand why people have kids they can’t afford? We can solve so many problems if we solve this mystery. The problem and solution is long term but today everything is now. China solved it with the one child, why can’t we try?

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