HOPE Services staff and volunteers interview a person taking refuge in a storefront along Hilo Bayfront Jan. 27. (Photo courtesy HOPE Services Hawaii)

Catholic Church-affiliate HOPE Services conducts Hawaii island Homeless Point in Time Count

HOPE Services Hawaii, the Catholic Church-affiliated leader in the battle against homelessness on the Big Island, last week facilitated the annual Homeless Point in Time Count on that island.

The count, an annual census of people experiencing homelessness on a given night, had volunteers canvassing parks, beaches, parking lots, and other areas people are believed to be living, and ask, “Where did you sleep on January 26th?”

The federally mandated survey requires that anyone who slept on the street, in a car, or in other substandard conditions be counted.

On Hawaii island, HOPE Services has taken the lead in facilitating the Point in Time Count.

Last year’s count found 690 people experiencing homelessness on the Big 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,” said Brandee Menino, HOPE Services chief executive officer.

According to a HOPE Services news release, the count does not capture every person experiencing homelessness but rather provides a one-night snapshot of the greater picture. The data collected provides a benchmark that can be compared county to county and year to year, which can illustrate the effectiveness of homeless services, or explain the impact of events such as a volcanic eruption.

Accuracy is important, as it helps communities advocate for state and federal resources.

The surveys include demographic data, which helps service providers focus their resources to be most effective. But even with more accurate information, agencies face an uphill battle.

“Rents are rising, but wages are stagnant,” says Menino. “The minimum wage is $10.10 per hour, but you’d need to work 103 hours a week at that wage to afford a two-bedroom apartment on Hawaii island. Unless we see major shifts in prioritizing affordable housing, the number of people entering homelessness is expected to grow.”

Founded in 2010, HOPE Services Hawaii provides services to move people into housing as quickly as possible, including homeless outreach, emergency shelter and affordable housing. With a team of nearly 75 employees, HOPE operates eight 24-hour shelters across the island and works with a variety of community partners to provide program participants with the support they need.

HOPE served 1,110 people last year, with 70% of participants who entered shelter moving into permanent housing. Seventy-eight percent of those who moved into housing remain housed for at least two years.

If you or someone you know has been evicted or is experiencing homelessness, call the HOPE helpline at 808-935-3050. 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 Hawaii) or Kehau Fontes at 808-936-8705 (East Hawaii), or email

Read the article direct through the Hawaii Catholic Herald here.