Hawaii’s homeless population decreased 9 percent statewide, with Honolulu as the only county to see a slight increase of 19 people, according to data released today.
Statewide, the number of homeless fell by 701 people, to 7,220 during the late-January count from 7,921 in 2016.
Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator, said the statewide decrease was the first in eight years, or since 2009. “It’s gone up constantly since that time,” he said, calling 2017’s overall drop “pretty significant.”
The Point In Time Count was announced at noon at the city’s newest housing project at Piikoi and Hassinger streets to house the homelessness following the “Housing First” model. The 2017 count offers Gov. David Ige and Mayor Kirk Caldwell the clearest feedback on their ongoing efforts to reduce homelessness.
Volunteers and social service outreach workers fanned out across the islands over several days in late January as part of an annual, nationwide effort to document the number of America’s homeless for the Point In Time Count.
The largest decrease was on Hawaii island, which saw its homeless population fall 32 percent, or 441 people. Maui County had a 22 percent drop, or 249 people, while Kauai saw a 7 percent drop, or 30 fewer homeless people.
“Change is possible, progress is possible,” said Brandee Menino, chairwoman of Bridging The Gap, which organized the count on the Neighbor Islands.
Oahu’s homeless population rose 0.4 percent to 4,959 people in the January count compared with 4,940 in 2016.
“I commend the many partners who have gotten out of their silos, come to the table and rolled up their sleeves,” Ige said in news release after the 2017 count was announced. “Together, we are finding more efficient ways to move people off the streets and into homes. This report is proof that our collective efforts are working.”
But the governor noted that more needs to be done to increase affordable housing and reduce homelessness.
During last year’s Point In Time Count, the state’s overall homeless population increased 4 percent from 2015, with increases in all counties.