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Neighbor island homeless counts are slightly up from 2020

DLNR homeless camp homelessness Maui.JPG
Kanahā/Amala Place on Sept. 21, 2021

Neighbor island Point-in-Time counts that monitor homeless populations are slightly up since the last full count two years ago.

The Bridging the Gap Continuum of Care with partners on Maui, Kaua’i and Hawai’i Island found an overall 1% increase in homelessness to 2,022 in 2022, up from 2,010 in 2020.

The report, required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, breaks down homelessness into two broader categories, sheltered vs. unsheltered, and combines those for a picture of a specific night that can be representative of the year.

While the overall count is up 1%, those who were unsheltered, meaning those not at an organized shelter, went up from 1,304 in 2020 to 1,394 in this year's report.

On the neighbor islands, the counts aren’t just done in a night. The counts take place over the course of a week, with surveyors traveling across the islands asking respondents where they were the night of Jan. 23.

“Every island does its own count independently,” Bridging the Gap Chair Maude Cumming said. “We utilized our own outreach workers and volunteers on every island.”

Among the three islands surveyed, various federal and county assistance programs came in around $93 million, according to Cumming.

“If we had not had that, we might have seen a greater impact in homelessness, it might have been more significant,” Cumming said. “But I think because of that people were prevented from falling into homelessness.”

On all three islands, family homelessness decreased. In this most recent report, 151 families were counted, including 52 that were unsheltered. This is the lowest it's been since 2018.

“That's about a 30% reduction over a five-year period,” Cumming said. “We really focused on that and I think what also helped was on every island, there were a number of affordable housing projects that became available for occupancy in the last two years. And so with that inventory, that stock of affordable units, we were able to move families.”

The largest decline in family homelessness was found on Maui, which decreased by 21 families, according to the report. Maui was the only county to see a decrease in homelessness, from 789 in 2020 to 741 in January.

Overall homeless increased by 5% on Hawai’i Island, going from 797 in 2020 to 837 in January.

Neighborhood Place of Puna Executive Director Paul Normann said the Point-in-Time is just a “snapshot of homelessness on our particular night in January, and we use this in conjunction with other reports that have more current data that has been accumulated over time.”

“What we see in the report is, we see an increase in unsheltered homelessness, which is a reflection of some of the challenges around COVID. But we also see a smaller reduction in homelessness because of all of the federal resources that have been poured into the community that have helped us keep individuals and families in their houses,” Normann said.

This year, the team switched from paper forms to using online forms which allowed the data to be collected and shared in real-time, Normann said.

On Kaua’i, the overall homelessness also went up by 5%, seeing 424 increase to 444. This breaks down to 404 unsheltered and 40 sheltered individuals.

To address homelessness on Kaua’i, the county has increased affordable housing opportunities through its Waimea Huakai, Pua Loke Apartments, and Kealaula development, Housing Agency Director Adam Roversi said. This is in addition to emergency assistance.

“Our emergency housing programs for rent, utility, and homeowner assistance have also been critical to our residents, helping them avoid evictions while experiencing the hardships of the pandemic,” Roversi said.

The county has also invested in a local shelter at Kaua’i Economic Opportunity that will double its capacity.

To address homelessness, BTG recommends increased affordable housing initiatives to create more opportunities to find housing; in creating supportive housing; continuing rapid-rehousing and long-term rent subsidy programs; expanding homeless prevention and diversion strategies; and enhanced street outreach.

Sabrina Bodon is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact her at or 808-792-8252.
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