Hawaii’s homelessness crisis shows no sign of abating.
According to the “point in time” count released Thursday by the Hawaii Department of Human Services, the state’s homeless population stood at 7,620 when the annual survey was conducted in late January.
That’s an increase by 702 individuals — a jump of more than 10 percent — compared to the previous year, when the officials counted 6,918 people living on the streets or in shelters.
The biggest increase came from Hawaii county, which saw its homeless population climb from 869 to 1,241 — a whopping increase of nearly 43 percent.
On Oahu, whose count was released in April, the number of homeless people jumped by about 4 percent. In Maui county, it went up by 18.5 percent.
Kauai county, meanwhile, saw the number of homeless people decrease from 378 to 339.
Tents line the sidewalks at Ohe Street near Waterfront Park in Kakaako.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
The relentless rise in homelessness comes at the time when state and local officials are putting an increasing effort — and resources — into tackling the problem. The Legislature and the Honolulu City Council have appropriated a total of more than $4 million this year for the Housing First program, which is aimed at identifying the chronically homeless and getting them quickly into permanent, supportive housing.
But that’s exactly the population that saw a sharp increase. The number of chronically homeless people rose by nearly 24 percent — from 1,109 to 1,372. Those suffering from chronic substance abuse saw an even sharper increase, rising by nearly 28 percent to 1,396.
In a statement, Gov. David Ige acknowledged that more needs to be done. “It is clear that we must collaborate with the counties to address the rising numbers of homeless individuals and families across the state,” he said.
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