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New study provides a deeper understanding of homeless youth issues on Oahu

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HONOLULU -

For many, the Street Youth Study was long overdue.

It provides a deeper understanding of issues homeless youth on O'ahu face each day.  

"We really need to do a better job of educating our community at all levels, to the issues that we're facing so that we can do a better job of helping get kids off the streets," Kent Anderson, chief high risk services officer at Waikiki Health said. 

The study was put together by Waikiki Health, Hale Kipa and the University of Hawaii Center on the Family, collecting data between July and October of 2016.

151 homeless youth between the ages of 12 and 24 were surveyed. Almost half of them are Hawaiian or part Hawaiian. 

"There's always a perception that we have this influx of homeless individuals coming to Hawaii and when you look at the data, over half of the young people are from here or were born here, so these are really our kids," Ivette Rodriguez Stern, University of Hawaii Center on the Family said. 

Anderson says some of the findings were expected. Others were not. Like the average age of first-time homeless, listed at 14-years-old.  Nearly half the people surveyed experienced homelessness for the first time with their families.

"Almost a quarter of our kids came from military families. That really jumped out at me. Honestly we haven't to this point really done anything with the military, but I think this is a huge opportunity if that what the data reflects," Anderson said. 

The study also mentioned 13 percent participated in survival sex and more than half of them stated they were forced to perform sex acts. 

"It's very unfortunate that these things are happening but totally understandable that youth are turning to doing what they can do just to get through each day," Anderson said. 

Alika Campbell, part of Youth Outreach in Waikiki, says the study shows an entirely new spectrum of services are needed: ranging from prevention  to shelters.

"We have real hard data to show that this is happening and this is a significantly statistic number," Campbell said. 

"It provides guidance on what needs to be addressed," Stern said. 

Anderson hopes the study is a starting point and hopes communities and legislators step forward to address youth homelessness on O'ahu. 
 

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