Clity Shepherd says there are two types of homeless people: Those who are discreet about their situation and others who are open about it.
“Everyone automatically thinks, ‘Oh, they’re on drugs. They’re hopeless. They can’t help themselves,’” said Shepherd, a Kauai resident who is currently homeless. “They won’t admit that they are. Those are the ones that should be helped. It’s growing.”
And according to the annual Point in Time count released Wednesday, the number of Kauai’s homeless population increased by about 30 percent in 2016 compared to last year.
Debra de Luis, secretary of Kauai Community Alliance which works to alleviate the homeless problem, said the higher number of homeless persons is a result of more PIT volunteers looking for them.
“We visited some sites more than once at different times to capture more information,” de Luis said. “Having more people out in the field helps the count. We’ll go out for a week. It’s important to have a lot of people out.”
de Luis added that better weather conditions also contributed to the increased numbers.
“During inclement weather, houseless consumers are more likely to use their limited resources to find temporary housing of some type,” de Luis said.
The PIT results found that 442 homeless people were counted in January, up from 339 of January 2015. In the state, there was a 4 percent increase: 7,620 in 2015 to 7,921 in 2016.
On Kauai, 41 percent of unsheltered people were counted on south central Kauai, around the Lihue area, according to the PIT report. That’s 145 people. The total number of unsheltered homeless in 2016 is 351 compared to 251 in 2015.
This year represents the fifth consecutive state increase in homelessness.
“At this time, most providers believe the number shown in the count (on Kauai), even though it’s higher than previous years, is still low (that is, it doesn’t reflect the total number of houseless individuals living here),” de Luis said.
Shepherd said the real number of homeless people on Kauai is greater than the PIT count.
“They don’t let anyone know because of how society views them,” she said. “The government needs to do something.”
Stephanie Fernandes, Kauai Employment Opportunity, Inc. homeless and housing director, said the PIT-one-day count is only a snapshot of the homeless population. The real number of homeless individuals, she said, is almost double.
“When you’re talking about numbers, we look at the number of people that come to our outreach Care-A-Van and actually receive services on a regular basis — rather than one day point in time,” she said. “Generally, we serve between 500 to 600 homeless people in a 12-month period.”
KEO’s Homeless emergency shelter, Manaolana, averages about 33 people a night, Fernandez said. In a 12-month period, the shelter serves between 200 to 225 people for the year, she said.
On weekdays, the KEO outreach Care-A-Van provides sustenance provisions to homeless people throughout the island.
“We always say that no matter who’s counting, it’s relative to what the families and individuals are faced with,” Fernandes said. “There’s a lot more people we suspect that don’t have their own house but live with their family and friends.”