AP NEWS

Hawaii falls to 2nd nationally in homeless population size

January 9, 2020 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — Improvements in programs to address Hawaii’s homeless population have allowed the state to fall from first to second in the national ranking of per capita homelessness, officials said.

State homeless coordinator Scott Morishige informed lawmakers Tuesday that New York now holds the top position, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Morishige presented the data to the Hawaii Homelessness Summit for both houses of the state Legislature. The summit is designed to help lawmakers evaluate the success of programs funded by the Legislature and consider other solutions to homelessness.

Placements of homeless people into permanent housing in Hawaii increased in 2018 from nearly 4,000 to more than 7,000. The state appears to have exceeded 7,000 placements again in 2019, he said.

“We’re not quite out of the woods yet, but we have shown progress,” Morishige said.

After trending upward from 2013 to 2016, Hawaii’s official Point in Time count of homeless people showed a decrease over the past four years.

The decrease corresponds with similar increases in housing placements over the same period and is reflected in other surveys related to homelessness, Morishige said.

There has also been a nearly 40% reduction in homeless families with minor children since 2016.

Marc Alexander, executive director of the Honolulu mayor’s housing office, said the city has made progress by focusing on housing and support services.

“You don’t eliminate homelessness unless you provide housing for people,” he said. “More shelters does not do the trick.”

Unsheltered homeless people are the most vulnerable individuals in the community, Alexander said.

“To leave them on the streets is simply unconscionable. We cannot allow that to happen,” he said.