Oahu’s homeless population has increased 3.4 percent since last year, according to the 2014 Point in Time Count, a survey required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. And since 2009, it’s increased about 30 percent. 

Overall, there are an estimated 4,712 homeless people living on Oahu, according to surveys conducted by outreach workers at the end of January. 

The biggest jump was in the unsheltered homeless population, which increased by more than 11 percent to 1,633 since last year. However, this increase may be attributable, at least in part, to more accurate statistics, according to a press release from the city’s Department of Community Services. 

The figures come at a time when Mayor Kirk Caldwell and the the Honolulu City Council are embroiled in a dispute over the direction of the city’s homeless policy. 

For the 2015 fiscal year, Caldwell sought to transfer $18.9 million from the city’s Affordable Housing fund to his Housing First program, which aims to get homeless into permanent housing. He also hoped to boost the city’s homeless outreach services by $3 million. 

However, City Council leaders have cut into this funding during budget hearings in past weeks and criticized the mayor’s policy for not focusing enough on homeless families. 

At a Tuesday budget committee hearing, Council Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi allocated $4 million to a Waikiki Housing First program and left another $8 million in the budget to assist homeless families. 

Pamela Witty-Oakland, director of the Department of Community Services, protested the budget changes during the hearing, noting that there are more individuals that need housing than there are families. 

There are an estimated 1,445 street homeless on Oahu, as opposed to 188 unsheltered people with families, according to the 2014 homeless survey. 

You can read the full survey here

The Caldwell administration has also cracked down on the homeless through arrests. During a weekend sweep of Waikiki in late April, the Honolulu Police Department arrested 195 people, many of whom were homeless, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported on Tuesday. The arrests were reportedly for such things as outstanding warrants, drugs and alcohol violations. 

Photo: A homeless Honolulu resident walks by the Hawaii Capitol. (PF Bentley/Civil Beat)

— Sophie Cocke

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