The number of homeless people in Hawaii receiving shelter and help from outreach programs declined by 3 percent — or 453 people — from fiscal year 2010 to FY 2011.

That reverses a trend that had increased sharply from 2007, when the state served 11,070 clients, to 2010’s figure of 14,653 clients.

Instead, only 14,200 people were served statewide in 2011. The trend is similar to the City and County of Honolulu, where the number of homeless people helped with shelters and outreach dropped from 10,432 to 9,781.

The data comes from the 2011 Homeless Service Utilization report, which was released Tuesday at the 2011 Statewide Homeless Awareness Conference in Waikiki.

Marc Alexander, the state’s homeless coordinator, told Civil Beat, “My line is that with these figures we are cautiously optimistic that perhaps we have hit a plateau.”

Report Conducted During ‘New Day’

The report, the sixth in a series, was developed by the Center on the Family at the University of Hawaii and the Homeless Programs Office of the state Department of Human Services.

The data are drawn from the state’s Homeless Management Information System — or HMIS — described as a “centralized electronic data system on homeless persons.”

It is also the first Homeless Utilization Report compiled since Gov. Neil Abercrombie hired Alexander and implemented a 90-day plan to alleviate homelessness.

The report’s authors caution that the data “do not represent all persons experiencing homelessness in Hawaii or all of the persons receiving services” during the time covered in the report.

Still, the data offer helpful insight into how the state’s homeless are being served.

For example, the downward trend in client services was similar on the Big Island, while Kauai numbers remained steady. Only Maui saw an increase in homeless served — a jump of 333 to 2,402 clients served.

Other highlights from the report:

• As of September, the number of transitional housing units has increased 97 percent (to 1,206 units) from the pre-2006 period.

• The number of shelter beds was 748, an increase of 59 percent from pre-2006.

• Oahu accounted for the “lion’s share” of the increases in units and beds.

• Year-over-year funding for homeless services remained the same: $13.3 million for the Shelter Stipend Program, and $2.4 million for the Homeless Outreach Program.

Mostly Haole, Hawaiian Males

The 2011 report breaks down data by demographics. Some highlights:

• The majority (85 percent) of clients at the time of service intake were homeless; most of the others were at risk of losing housing.

• Males represented 60 percent of homeless service clients.

• Caucasians and Hawaiians represented nearly two-thirds of the client population (34 percent and 28 percent, respectively.)

• Marshallese clients comprised 6 percent of clients (or 795 people) while Micronesians totaled 10 percent (or 1,395 people).

• Approximately 79 percent of people receiving shelter were U.S. citizens; 17 percent came from Compact of Free Association nations.

• Children under 18 made up one-third of the statewide shelter population.

• Military veterans comprised 11 percent of shelter clients.

‘Many Caveats’

Alexander, who consulted with Center on the Family’s and state Homeless Programs Director Sandra Miyoshi about the report, said there are “many caveats.”

“We don’t want to overstate it,” he said. “We are asking critical questions, like, ‘What does this really show?’ ‘Did everyone report accurately?'”

Alexander continued: “We’ve worked really hard on improving the HMIS during the 90-day plan. The numbers are solid, but we want to manage expectations.”

While a drop in those seeking shelter or services is “good news,” Alexander said the state is trying to get a handle on another indicator: the number of people moving into permanent housing.

“That number apparently jumped, but we have to talk about that to see how useful the data is,” he said. “The other thing is to look at how to keep people from becoming homeless.”

The next indicator of whether efforts to alleviate homelessness are working or not comes in January, when the annual “point-in-time” count is conducted per the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Hunger, Homeless Week

The governor spoke to the homeless service providers at the Tuesday’s conference, which was held at the Pacific Beach Hotel

(The conference was sponsored by Partners In Care, Oahu’s Continuum of Care.)

Abercrombie announced a governor’s proclamation making this week National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week in Hawaii. He also called for a renewed sense of commitment to the issue of homelessness.

“It’s the every day commitment that we reach out to each other as brothers and sisters and that we do not express gratitude,” he said.

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