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One-third of Hawaii homeless and evictions are kupuna

A new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by AARP has estimated that Hawaii has 5,116 homeless adults — about one-third of whom are kupuna 55 years or older.

In addition, evictions in 2022 are estimated at 3,906 in the islands, with about a third of those being kupuna.

“Those are just jarring numbers,” AARP Hawaii State Director Keali‘i Lopez said Sunday. “Many older people have given their lives to Hawaii or served their country, and to see them in a situation where they’re in the street in their later years is unconscionable.”

To fight the problem, the AARP is calling for zoning reforms, more funding for affordable housing and increases in housing supply.

“Affordable housing was already our top priority,” Lopez said. “Now this just reinforces the effort we have to put into this issue.”

The Statista/AARP census data analysis also estimates homelessness and evictions by county and race. Honolulu this year is expected to see 2,970 evictions of adults 18 and older, followed by Hawaii island with 429, Maui with 355 and Kauai with 145.

Oahu also has the most homeless adults with 3,932, according to AARP estimates. Hawaii County has 536, while Maui has 463 and Kauai has 175 homeless adults.

Put another way, for every 10,000 people on Oahu, 49 are homeless. Of the neighbor islands, Maui County has 34 homeless people per 10,000 residents, followed by Hawaii County with 33 and Kauai with 30.

Samar Jha, AARP government affairs director, was in Hawaii this week to present the analysis at an affordable-housing conference.

In an interview, Jha said the Hawaii numbers are average to above average for states around the country.

“For older adults, homelessness and evictions are a problem nationally,” he said. “Many of them are victims of the housing crisis.”

The AARP analysis, which covers a nine-year period beginning in 2019 and pro­jects evictions and homelessness into 2027, found a sharp rise in evictions and homelessness toward the end of the pandemic and peaking this year.

The problem of home­lessness and evictions is expected to gradually decrease through 2026, the AARP said.

Jha said this is due in large part to federal COVID- 19 funding, but the decline likely will amount to only “a few hundred.”

“There has to be a permanent program to assist homeowners and tenants,” he said.

Lopez said local governments, among other things, need to make a better effort to more easily allow for individual single-family home lots to be transformed into multifamily living areas.

Another factor in the problem, she said, is the NIMBY (not in my backyard) attitude that has helped to kill the proposed construction of senior and low-­income housing.

Affordable housing was a popular theme on the Hawaii campaign trail this year.

“We hope to hold those politicians to their promises,” Lopez said.

Other AARP findings:

>> Evictions and homelessness disproportionately affect adults 44 years and younger and 65 years and older more than adults 45 to 64.

>> Asians (1,676), followed by Caucasians (1,339) and people of mixed race (905), make up the majority of homeless in Hawaii.

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