Think About It: Homeless Headcount - KFVE, K5-Hawaii News Now, Local Programming

May 19, 2014

Think About It: Homeless Headcount

The numbers are never good these days when it comes to homelessness in Hawaii, but it was disturbing nonetheless to hear that the number of people considered homeless on Oahu continues to grow in 2014, for the 6th year in a row. Questions about whether to spend more funds on individuals or families come up, as do concerns on the city council about earmarking additional money for the Housing First project vs. adding requested funding for housing of low-income domestic violence victims.

Buried in the annual statistics is the fact that recent efforts to actually count up the number of homeless people are probably more accurate than the counts of street denizens and shelter dwellers done in earlier years. Honolulu's recently released 2014 Point in Time survey acknowledged that counting accuracy is "being improved", which is important and good, but also raises the question as to whether or not the number of homeless people is truly increasing or is possibly just being recognized better. This year's numbers say the unsheltered homeless number is up 37% from 2009, but is that a true count or a result of better tabulations? While getting a handle on the problem matters, finding answers supersedes statistical analysis.

And this doesn't change the fact that dealing with individuals who want nothing to do with treatment or shelter makes the job of the involved parties in the private and public sector very difficult in determining and securing solutions. Of concern to all residents is the sense that there are more crimes being committed to and by homeless people, and the fact that the Waikiki visitor industry has heard anecdotally and repeatedly from frustrated visitors that the homeless dilemma is more visible and worse than ever here. The sooner solutions are reached, no matter what the actual numbers of homeless there are, the better off everyone will be, even if the budgeted costs in the short term go higher than some would like to plan for. Think about it...  

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