LIHUE — On Kauai, 480 homeless people received services last fiscal year from the state homeless outreach program the Care-A-Van, a mobile outreach program operated by Kauai Economic Opportunity, Inc. That number, according to KEO, is the best and most up-to-date estimate of the total number of homeless people on the island.
Every day the Care-A-Van is dispatched to a different beach park or other location where the homeless are known to congregate, providing between 250 and 300 people a month with basic medical and hygiene needs and food as well as assistance filling out housing applications.
“We have people camping and people staying in places that are not fit for human habitation and we have people living on a friend or family member’s couch,” said Stephanie Fernandez, KEO’s homeless and housing programs director. “We can see anywhere between 600 and 800 people in a year’s time.”
Mana’olana is KEO’s 19-bed emergency overnight shelter for homeless individuals and families, who can stay for as long as six weeks. The shelter provides guests with dinner each night as well as access to showers and case workers who try to help them get back on their feet.
“We try to find out why they are homeless and what their barriers are,” Fernandes said.
The state’s annual Point In Time count found 339 homeless people living on Kauai in January 2015, down from 378 last year. The survey is not meant to provide an exact count. Instead, it is a snapshot in time, meant to provide a baseline number to measure and track the scale of Hawaii’s homelessness problem.
Fernandes said the PIT count does not include the “hidden” homeless, those who are not living and sleeping in more visible public places like beach parks. While the PIT shows a year-over-year decline in Kauai’s homeless population by about 10 percent, Fernandes said that KEO has actually seen a small increase in the number of homeless.