Two years after declaring a statewide homelessness emergency, Hawaii still has the highest homelessness rate in the country, Axios reported Wednesday.
Hawaii’s 2017 report showed that more than 50 out of every 10,000 Hawaii residents are homeless, a number double the rate of homelessness in 43 other states. The state embarked on a $1.3 million initiative in 2014 to buy one-way flights out of Hawaii for homeless people, but the state still has a homeless population of 7,220 across the islands, 1,000 more than in 2013. Hawaii has found some success, however, dropping the homelessness rate by 5 percent since 2015. Now, the state is looking to maintain that success.
“I think the main reason is housing placement,” Brandee Menino, who measures the homeless population, told Hawaii News Now. “We did a better job at housing families. And we made it easier for people to get into shelters. We went from four pages of shelter rules to six expectations. We knew that’s one of the complaints we get from our homeless community.”
However, key “trouble areas” still exist. The island of Oahu saw an increase of .4 percent. Comparatively, populations on the islands of Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai dropped by 32 percent, 22 percent, 7 percent, and 9 percent, respectively. State officials have tried to explain away the discrepancy, blaming data-gathering mistakes.
“The reason why the numbers are flat instead of going down on Oahu is because certain areas that have been well undercounted in the past have now been accurately counted,” said Marc Alexander, Honolulu’s housing director.
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