Hawaiʻi Public Radio | By Mark Ladao

Published June 7, 2024 at 2:10 PM HST


In this Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015 photo, a man walks toward his makeshift tent at a homeless encampment near the ocean in Waianae, Hawaii. There are nearly 300 homeless people living in the encampment. Homelessness in Hawaii has grown in recent years, leaving the state with 487 homeless per 100,000 people, the nation's highest rate per capita, ahead of New York and Nevada, according to federal statistics. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)


Jae C. Hong / AP

File – In this Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015 photo, a man walks toward his makeshift tent at a homeless encampment near the ocean in Waianae, Oʻahu. 


According to the latest Point-in-Time Count (PIT), Hawaiʻi Island takes the lead in state efforts to reduce its homeless population.

The PIT report, conducted by the neighbor island-led group Bridging the Gap, revealed a 28% drop in Hawaiʻi Island’s homeless population between 2023 and 2024. That’s almost a difference of 300 individuals, according to the report.

The one-day count took place in January, providing a snapshot of the state’s homeless population.

Officials on the island say “unprecedented” government support for homeless services and affordable housing led to the improvement over last year.

“Funding our local programs to help ensure that folks who are ready and wanting to move out of homelessness have access to those resources as best as possible,” said Paul Normann, chair of the island’s Community Alliance Partners. “There’s limited shelter, there’s limited housing, but there’s more capacity for them to work alongside people with the right skills to help them navigate those challenges.”

The county’s homeless population has fluctuated since 2018, although the 2023 count was the largest it had been in at least five years. This year’s count is its lowest since 2019.

The County of Hawaiʻi attributed the success to the use of 2,300 federally funded housing vouchers, the affordable housing made available for those making less than 60% of the area median income, and coordination between county departments.

It also said that its grant agreements with 13 nonprofits under its Homelessness and Housing Fund helped that cause. It pointed to a 2022 county ordinance that gave the fund 75% of the real property tax revenue collected from homes with a value of at least $2 million.

Normann said there needs to be more affordable housing units made available, but he is optimistic that the county can make that happen.

The PIT report also shows that Maui’s homeless population fell by 7% between from last year. The report shows the county has been able to steadily reduce that population over the last five years. In 2018 that population was at 873 people, but has dropped every year.

This year’s count shows the Maui homeless population at about 650 people.

The report does not include those displaced by the deadly wildfires on Maui in August. It does show data showing that over 5,000 people were in non-congregate shelters — primarily hotel rooms provided to fire survivors — giving “some perspective as to the magnitude of temporary shelter assistance that has been provided to households impacted by the wildfires.”

The homeless population grew by 12% on Oʻahu and 7% on Kauaʻi.

While the number of unsheltered families dropped on Kauaʻi, the total number of homeless individuals — from 488 to 523 — jumped since last year.

“The combination of a tight housing market, lack of treatment options for substance abuse and mental health, and inadequate funding for wraparound services has unsurprisingly led to an increase in homelessness among single adults,” said Makana Kamibayashi, chair of the Kaua’i Community Alliance, in a statement.