Oahu homeless population falls 1%
Hawaii News

Oahu homeless population falls 1%

  • Video by Craig T. Kojima / ckojima@staradvertiser.com

    Partners in Care released new data Wednesday showing a drop in Oahu's homeless population in January.

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    An update of the information from the homeless census counted statewide in January was released on Wednesday. Aurelius Warren, a Vietnam veteran who was homeless, told his story during a news conference held at the Punawai Rest Stop in Iwilei. At left is Jere Kalima, case manager/residential specialist for the Steadfast Housing Development Corp.

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    The annual nationwide homeless census called the Point in Time Count released on Wednesday stated that Oahu showed a 1% drop in homelessness in January, not 4% as previously stated. Anthony Bonilla, homeless for two years, stood with a “Housing is the Answer” sign at the Punawai rest Stop in Iwilei.

Oahu saw only a 1% drop in homelessness in January — not the 4% decline reported in February, according to data released Wednesday.

The updated numbers mean that Oahu’s homeless population dropped from 4,495 people in January 2018 to 4,453 this January during the annual nationwide homeless census called the Point in Time Count, which is conducted for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Combined with a previously reported 2% decline in homelessness across the neighbor islands, the new numbers for Oahu mean that the state had a 1% decline in homelessness in January, according to Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator.

Statewide, 6,448 homeless people were counted in January across all islands. Out of the overall homeless population, 2,810 people (or 44%) were considered sheltered while 3,638 people (or 56%) were unsheltered.

The 1% overall drop pales in comparison to the previous two years, which saw annual statewide declines of more than 9% starting in 2017.

Despite three consecutive decreases, Hawaii currently has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the country.

The new data released Wednesday for Oahu was the result of updated statistics from homeless shelters on the island, according to Heather Lusk, vice chairwoman of Partners in Care, which conducts the annual Point in Time Count on Oahu.

In February, the then-head of Partners in Care, Sam Millington, provided the Honolulu Star-Advertiser with preliminary Point in Time Count data for Oahu that showed a 4% decrease. Millington then abruptly resigned and moved back to Maui.

At the same time, Millington’s preliminary numbers showed a 12% increase in Oahu’s “unsheltered” homeless population — meaning the number of unsheltered homeless people jumped to 2,401 in 2019 from 2,145 in 2018.

The updated numbers released Wednesday showed an identical 12% increase in Oahu’s unsheltered population. At the same time, the number of “sheltered” homeless people dropped 13% since 2018 — from 2,350 people in 2018 to 2,052 in January.

Lusk said that a replacement has been selected for Millington and an announcement will be forthcoming.

Lusk announced the updated numbers inside the city’s new four-story Punawai Rest Stop in Iwilei, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year, according to Marc Alexander, director of the city’s Office of Housing.

Combined with the neighbor island data, Hawaii overall saw an 8% decrease in “sheltered” homeless people — 3,055 people in 2018 compared to 2,810 this January; and a 5% overall increase in unsheltered homeless people — 3,475 people in 2018 compared to 3,638 in January.

While the January numbers for Oahu and the neighbor island numbers don’t compare to the last two years, Morishige’s office emphasized the overall trend of declines in multiple categories since 2016:

>> Hawaii’s overall homeless population has fallen 18% (or by 1,473 people);

>> The number of “sheltered” homeless has dropped 22% (803 people);

>> The number of “unsheltered” homeless decreased 16% (670 people);

>> Homeless military veterans fell 24% (164 people);

>> Homeless families declined 39% (1,303 people);

>> Those considered “chronically homeless,” a group that generates daily complaints, decreased 9% (191 people);

>> “Adults with severe mental illness” dropped 4% (74 people);

>> “Unsheltered adults with mental illness declined 15% (189 people);

>> “Adults with chronic substance abuse” decreased 12% (180 people);

>> And “unsheltered adults with chronic substance abuse” fell 16% (182 people).

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