LIHUE — Kauai saw the largest decrease in homelessness in 2017 compared to the rest of the state, according to the annual Point in Time Count, which showed a nearly 10 percent overall decrease in the number of homeless individuals across the state compared with the same period last year.
It’s the second consecutive year Hawaii’s homeless population has decreased.
“Kauai specifically has ramped up efforts to address this problem in the past two years, and the concerted efforts of a number of government agencies coupled with private social service organizations are showing positive results,” said Kauai United Way Executive Director Scott Giarman.
KUW partners with many organizations to host events like Charity Walk, and helps families otherwise not eligible for assistance to retain their housing and prevent evictions.
“Homelessness is a complex issue without a simple solution,” Giarman said. “There are almost always underlying conditions that can, and often do, include mental illness, substance abuse and medical problems.”
Every county experienced a decrease in homelessness. Kauai experienced this year a 28.8 percent decline compared with 2017, the third decrease in the past four years. County and service provider efforts assisted 157 individuals on Kauai to gain permanent housing in 2017.
The Kauai County Housing Agency Tenant Based Rental Assistance program, along with the U.S. Department of Housing and UrbanDevelopment’s Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program contributed to reducing family homelessness. Agencies such as Family Life Center and Catholic Charities Hawaii provided rental deposit/utility deposits or related supplements to help families take advantage of the housing vouchers.
Kauai County committed to reducing homelessness by adding a homeless coordinator position, keeping the focus on homeless services and coordinating with service providers. This focus on the Coordinated Entry System made referrals more transparent and saved money by focusing on the hardest to serve.
A program offered by Kauai Economic Opportunity assisted several families in returning to the Mainland and prevented homelessness or moved the families from homelessness to housing on the Mainland.
“These fine organizations provide outreach to the homeless, food, medicine, treatment for mental illness, substance abuse and other medical issues, temporary shelter, acquisition of vital documents, job training and placement, transportation assistance and transitional housing leading to permanent housing, employment and independent living,” Giarman said.
Statewide, new Housing First and Rapid Re-Housing programs, including the Homeless Prevention Program and Emergency Solutions Grant, helped local families become or remain housed.
“Collaborating with Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and our mayors across the state, and coordinating county, state and federal programs have resulted in drops in homelessness the last two years,” said Gov. David Ige.
The 2018 count found 6,530 homeless individuals across Hawaii compared with 7,220 in 2017.