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More homeless people living on Oahu’s streets, latest population count shows

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  • DENNIS ODA / JULY 19, 2018

    Tourists walk on Pohukaina Street in Kakaako as they pass the homeless belongings that line the sidewalk in July. The latest Point in Time Count of Oahu’s homeless population is showing a big jump in the number of people living on the street, according to preliminary data.

Oahu’s overall homeless population fell for the second year in a row — to 4,311 people, a drop of 4 percent, but there are still more people living on the street than a year ago, according to preliminary data from January’s annual nationwide homeless census called the Point in Time Count.

There were 184 fewer homeless people counted across Oahu in January compared with a year earlier. The overall number includes people living in homeless shelters or those with a place to stay but no permanent home.

However the subsection of “unsheltered homeless” rose 12 percent, to 2,401 in January from 2,145 in 2018, according to the preliminary numbers.

The overall decline represents far fewer people categorized as Oahu’s “sheltered homeless population,” which dropped to 1,910 this year from 2,350 in 2018, according to Sam Millington, executive director of Partners in Care, which organized this year’s Point in Time Count for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Millington, who ran January’s Oahu Point in Time Count for the first time, emphasized that Point in Time Count numbers “are not exact numbers and they’re not intended to be exact numbers.”

“It’s only a snapshot to give us a general idea of any changes year to year,” Millington said today. “They should not be considered absolute numbers in any way shape and form.”

More data, including numbers for specific regions of Oahu, are likely to be released in April, he said.

At the same time, Millington said, the annual Point in Time Count numbers fulfill a mandate by HUD and are not aimed at state or local officials.

“We do this for HUD,” he said. “We don’t do this for the city, we don’t do this for the governor.”

Nevertheless Mayor Kirk Caldwell said today, “I consider it very good news that the Point in Time Count shows a significant decrease on the island of Oahu. Overall, this is good news. I was holding my breath. … It gives me reasons to continue our compassionate disruption.”

But Caldwell said he worries that the number of “unsheltered homeless is growing. … It’s something I see every day. If you go into shelter, you get a better chance of getting into permanent supportive housing.”

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