The statewide Point-in-Time Count, a census of Hawaii’s homeless population, decreased across all islands, indicating that the state is making progress in reducing the country’s highest per capita rate of homelessness.
Statewide, the number of homeless individuals in 2018 dropped almost 10 percent to 6,530 from the year ago 7,220. The largest decrease was on Kauai which saw its homeless population fall nearly 29 percent. Maui County had a nearly 3 percent drop, while Hawaii island saw a nearly 9 percent drop. Oahu’s homeless population fell just over 9 percent.
That’s in comparison to 2017 when Hawaii’s statewide homeless count fell 8.8 percent — the first decrease since 2009 — for a total homeless population of 7,220 people. Last year, Oahu was the only island that saw its homeless population increase — by 19 people — for a total homeless population of 4,959 people.
The count was announced about 10 a.m. at the Father Damien statue at the Hawaii State Capitol. The location was a nod to a commitment from this year’s House and Senate to provide $30 million to establish “ohana zones” where the homeless can live.
The details have been left to Gov. David Ige’s administration, but the measure authorizes that living areas be created for homeless on state and county lands. Up to three ohana zones would be established on Oahu, and one each on Maui, Kauai and Hawaii island.
The results of this year’s count were gleaned from social service workers, government workers and community volunteers, who surveyed the islands asking the sheltered and unsheltered homeless people that they encountered to provide answers to a two-page, 20-question survey about where they were on Jan. 22.
The results were greatly improved from last year. In December, federal officials released data from the 2017 nationwide Point-in-Time Count, which showed Hawaii still had the nation’s highest per capita rate of homelessness.