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Big drop in Hawaii's homeless population - Honolulu, Hawaii news, sports & weather - KITV Channel 4

Big drop in Hawaii's homeless population

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A dramatic drop in Hawaii's homeless population.
    For the second year in a row, the number goes down statewide by nearly 10%. 
    Family homelessness fell 11%, the amount of homeless veterans decreased 13%, and chronic homelessness dipped by almost 5%.
          While many celebrating the drop, some say the real number of our homeless population is higher, because not all are being counted.
    
The January annual point in time count found 4,495 sheltered and unsheltered residents on Oahu, down from 4,959 last year.

"Moving from almost 5,000, to just under 4,500, that is a decrease of 464 people or 9.4%," said Heather Lusk, with Partners In Care.

Overall the state averaged a ten percent drop in homeless residents, from 7,220 down to 6,530. While Kauai had the biggest reduction of nearly 30%.

More than 2,000 additional beds at shelters and in housing, is credited with helping bring down the numbers, as well as streamlining Hawaii's homeless support system.

"Getting individuals and families into housing is the first step. Then the work starts and helping them to stabilize in housing, and making sure there is the resources and support they need to stabilize. Mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, services for families," said Brandee Menino, with Bridging the Gap. 

But some say the numbers tell a different story,
including those on the streets who say they weren't counted.

"If they are putting the count in the paper, I don't know where they are getting that. Because no one came and talked to us," said longtime homeless resident Douglas Sencio.

"I haven't got counted, I know I haven't. He didn't run into one either, so who is to say what the count really is. I think its up," stated John Mantanona, who has been living on the streets for the past 8 years.

Volunteers with the Point-In-Time Count say there were fewer people adding up the numbers this year. And some of the homeless refused to be counted.

"I would go up to a tent and tell people who we were. They would say, 'no we don't want to participate in the count, we're afraid of the info you will use, we are tired of being targeted'," said volunteer Alani Apio.

Targeted because of city or state sweeps where homeless gather. 

"Because of the sweeps, I just roam around. They happen everyday," stated Sencio.

"We try to limit them, but there are certain areas where we need to make sure the public has access to them," stated Marc Alexander, with the Honolulu Office of Housing.

Nine sweeps were scheduled on the day of the count, but the city says those were suspended because of the count.
The sweeps have cleared out once congested Kakaako parks.
but they may have made finding homeless residents even harder.

"A lot of people headed for the mountains, because they don't want to be bothered. They are looking for a safe place, a safe zone," said Mantanona.

"The sweeps are terrorizing our community members to the point they are fearful of being counted. Because they don't know what the state will do with that information," added Apio.


 

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