January 29, 2020, 9:33 AM HST (Updated January 29, 2020, 9:33 AM)
HOPE Services Housing Navigator Steven “Happy” Stachurski conducts an interview while colleagues Alyssa Souza (L) and Carrie Hoʻopiʻi, and volunteer Reisha Hoʻopiʻi look on. (Jan. 27, 2020). (Courtesy of HOPE Services)
This week, counties across the US are conducting Homeless Point-In-Time Count, an annual census of people experiencing homelessness on a given night.
HOPE Services staff and volunteers will be collecting the data for Hawai‘i County — canvasing parks, beaches, parking lots, and other areas individuals or families are believed to be living, and ask: “Where did you sleep on January 26th?”
“The survey, which is federally mandated, requires that anyone who slept on the street, in a car, or in other substandard conditions, be counted,” a press release from HOPE Services stated.
While the count does not capture every person experiencing homelessness, the release states, it does provide a one-night snapshot of the greater picture of homelessness. The data collected provides a benchmark that can be compared county to county and year to year, which can help illustrate the effectiveness of homeless services, or explain the impact of events such as the Kilauea eruption. Ensuring accuracy is important, as it helps communities advocate for state and federal resources.
The surveys include demographic data, which also helps service providers to decide how to focus resources in order to most effectively serve the population.
Last year’s count found 690 people experiencing homelessness on Hawaii Island, down 50% from 1,394 in 2016.
“While there are fewer people on the street, we have more and more people becoming homeless for the first time every year,” says Brandee Menino, CEO of HOPE Services.
While the count provides insight into the enormity of the problem, the agencies working to end homelessness face an uphill battle.
“Rents are rising but wages are stagnant. The minimum wage is $10.10 per hour, but you’d need to work 103 hours a week at that wage to afford a 2 bedroom apartment on Hawaiʻi Island,” says Menino. “Unless we see major shifts in prioritizing affordable housing, the number of people entering homelessness is expected to grow.”
Homeowners can help end homelessness by offering rental housing, including bedrooms and studios, or by participating in HOPE’s new Master Leasing program, where HOPE pays 100% of fair market value rent, and assumes liability for tenants. To inquire about this program, call Taylor Quanan at 808-765-8655 (West Hawaiʻi) or Kehau Fontes at 808-936-8705 (East Hawaiʻi), or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the article direct through Big Island Now here.