The city released its 2014 Point in Time Count (PIT) of Oahu's homeless population on Tuesday.
Each year, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development requires a point-in-time count of homeless people on Oahu. This year's PIT is based on the night of January 22, 2014.
This year’s count identified a total of 4,712 homeless people on Oahu, 2,356 individuals and 2,356 people living in families. There were 1,633 unsheltered homeless people, an 11.47 percent increase since 2013.
There was a slight decline in the number of homeless people living in families since last year, but a 7.3 percent increase in homeless individuals. These numbers reflect a steady overall increase of homeless people over the last several years and is also higher due to improved execution of the PIT.
Oahu's 2014 PIT was executed in a more organized, comprehensive manner, for the first time ever utilizing the Homeless Management Information Systems database to drive strategy for count as referenced in appendices and recommendations. The new statistics reflect increased accuracy of count and, consequently, an increased number of homeless persons. Even with the improvements to the count, there are likely more homeless persons than were counted.
While the number of homeless individuals and families were exactly the same, 92 percent of Oahu's homeless families were sheltered on the night of the count, while just 39 percent of homeless individuals were sheltered. There was also an increase in unsheltered chronically homeless individuals, going from 505 in 2013 to 558 this year.
The PIT also revealed that a considerable segment of unsheltered chronically homeless people suffer from severe mental illness and/or substance abuse, afflictions that makes utilizing emergency or transitional shelters, most of which require treatment and sobriety as preconditions to admittance, problematic.
"There are people who fall through the cracks in the system and end up on the street," said Mayor Kirk Caldwell. "Whether it’s due to mental illness, substance abuse, or a combination of the two, these are the most visible and vulnerable among us, and we have the obligation to care for them. Many of our unsheltered chronically homeless people suffer from severe mental illness and substance abuse. Housing First is proven to place this extremely challenging population into permanent supportive housing. It saves money over cycling them through our prisons, emergency rooms, and shelters, and it’s the humane thing to do."