With nearly 600 square miles to cover, tracking homeless people on Oahu is a daunting task.
That’s why organizers of an upcoming “point in time” count are asking for volunteers to give up a little shoe leather later this month.
During the week of Jan. 23, volunteers will canvass the streets in an effort to count every homeless people on Oahu — part of a federally mandated annual effort aimed at providing a headcount that will help assess the state of Hawaii’s homelessness crisis.
This year, organizers at Partners in Care, a coalition of 30 homeless service providers on Oahu, estimate that about 500 volunteers will be needed to conduct an accurate count.
So far, only 150 volunteers have stepped up to offer help.
The lack of volunteers is a perennial problem that has plagued the past counts, but Jennifer Stasch, director of Partners in Care, is hoping for a different result this year.
To drum up the support, Stasch helped streamline the sign-up process for volunteers — they can register by either calling 211 or visiting Partners in Care’s website.
And, for the first time this year, Partners in Care is coordinating the effort islandwide — a marked contrast to past counts, which were conducted separately in seven regions of Oahu.
Scott Morishige, the governor’s coordinator on homelessness, says having a strong volunteer turnout is critical.
“The annual count is not only a tool that we can use to figure out how to allocate the resources, but also a way for the communities to really know who the people experiencing homelessness in the different areas are,” Morishige said. “If you create opportunities like this for people to get engaged, it’ll help educate the public about the issue and really increase the understanding.”