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Initial Survey Results Show O?ahu Unsheltered Homeless Numbers Grew

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Wayne Yoshioka
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The initial findings from O’ahu’s annual homelessness survey on O’ahu’s have been released.

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Credit Wayne Yoshioka
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Partners in Care: Sam Millington (L), executive director and Sharon Baillie, operations and planning manager

The 2019 Point in Time Count for homeless individuals on O’ahu -- 4,311 -- is an overall decrease of 4 percent from last year.  It also the second consecutive year of decline.  The sheltered homeless decreased 19 percent, but, the unsheltered homeless, those living on sidewalks, in parks, and elsewhere, increased 12 percent. Partners in Care is the nonprofit that conducted the one night survey last month.  Sam Millington is the executive director.

“Overall homelessness down.  The sheltered population is way down and that means they’re transitioning into permanent supportive housing, other kinds of housing and we have the wrap-around services to keep them in that housing.”

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Credit Wayne Yoshioka
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Scott Morishige, governor's coordinator on homelessness

The governor’s coordinator on homelessness, Scott Morishige, says the survey shows the administration’s shift from providing homeless shelters to permanent housing, is working.

“In 2018, we had over 44-hundred people just on O’ahu go from homelessness to permanent housing.  In 2017, only about a third of people exiting homelessness went into permanent housing. In 2018, that number is over 50 percent. So, when we see the overall homeless numbers go down, that’s partially because more people are getting into permanent homes.  Not just cycling through the system.”

But, the state legislature passed Ohana Zone legislation last year with a 30-million dollar appropriation.  The administration was tasked to provide state land and health and safety amenities for the homeless.   Instead, the administration said homeless encampments and tent cities don’t work.  Representative Joy San Buenaventura, chair of the House Human Services and Homelessness Committee, disagrees.  She says the administration will still be on the hook to implement the program.

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Credit Wayne Yoshioka
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Rep. Joy San Buenaventura, chair of the House Human Services and Homelessness Committee

"We're gonna give them an additional two more years to try to implement Ohana Zones. We are increasing the scope of Ohana Zones to not only require it to be on public lands but to allow for private lands under a public-private partnership.  And, we need this kind of transitional housing until we can find them permanent homes.”

Meanwhile, the unsheltered homeless population, which increased by more than 250 individuals, is an area of concern for all stakeholders.  But, Partners in Care executive director, Millington, says there were 600 volunteers conducting the survey, far more than in previous years.

“It doesn’t mean that there’s necessarily more unsheltered homeless.  It may mean that we simply found more this time, that they were always there.  If we stay the course and keep funding the programs we have, I’m predicting there’s a good chance that the sheltered population will likely go down next year because of the success of the programs that the governor, the mayor and the legislature are funding.”

Partners in Care plans to review the survey results and issue a final report in two months.  Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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