LIHU‘E — On Kaua‘i, there are 716 individuals receiving direct rental assistance through the county.
On top of that, there are 50 people who have been authorized to receive rental assistance and are searching for housing.
An additional 700 people have recently been sent letters inviting them to complete the Housing Agency’s rental assistance application.
There’s 23 individuals or families on specialized rental assistance to move from houselessness to housed, and 48 on a waiting list for this help.
These are only some of the lists Housing Agency Director Adam Roveri shared during an Aug. 5 Public Safety and Human Services Committee Meeting briefing the county about Hale Kokua, initiatives to assist the houseless and emergency shelter resources, as requested by councilmember Felicia Cowden.
The Housing Agency has surveyed county properties as well as partner properties, and Roveri said the data doesn’t currently indicate a spike in houselessness.
“It’s been difficult to collect any clear data, but it doesn’t seem there’s many people transitioning to homelessness at the moment,” Roversi said.
However, if the eviction moratorium that’s currently in place until the end of August does not get extended, there will likely be a trend upward.
“I don’t think there has been a significant increase in homelessness due to COVID-19, but certainly if the eviction moratorium were to expire and not be renewed by the governor and/or in combination with that unemployment provisions were not renewed, I think we could easily see a wave of evictions on Kaua‘i,” Roversi said.
Hale Kokua provides a resource for the houseless community in making referrals to direct assistance. In fiscal year 2019, the Housing Agency reported moving 181 houseless individuals into permanent housing.
The county is also looking at alternative sites for the houseless communities currently confined to several beach parks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are getting a lot of pressure for the general public,” Parks and Recreation Director Patrick Porter said. “It’s a work in progress.”
Kaua‘i Police Department Chief Todd Raybuck also weighed in on the encampments, noting that there has not been a significant increase in calls. Kamalani has the highest level of calls for service, Raybuck reported.
But the first issue Cowden brought up was identification.
“When I am working with the people who have some of the most challenging situations, among the houseless community, there is a constant process of people not having their ID,” Cowden said.
She’s heard people having their stuff stolen or become lost when taken into evidence when arrested. Raybuck offered for these individuals to visit the main offices ask for Patrol Services to determine why identification was taken and where it could possibly be.
But it’s bigger than just not having identification, Cowden said. When somebody doesn’t have a way to identify themselves, there’s a good chance they don’t have transportation, a phone or internet services to apply for additional services, etc.
“If we aren’t able to address helping people with (having identification), we can’t address the deeper part of the problems,” Cowden said. “If we don’t help people through that process, they can’t go to step two.”
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.