Group plans homeless count along Leeward Coast
Waianae Community Outreach hopes to conduct such tallies quarterly
A Waianae nonprofit organization that helps the homeless says it is time to find out how many people are living in beach parks along the Leeward Coast.
Help needed for count
Who: Waianae Community Outreach
What: Count the number of homeless people living on Leeward Coast beach parks
Where: From Kahe Point to Kaena Point
When: Evening of Aug. 27, morning of Aug. 28
The nonprofit agency is looking for volunteers to help with the count. For more information, contact Michael Ullman at 391-7963 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We feel it's important to get a real count before anything new happens, whether it's building structures or moving out people," said Michael Ullman, who is coordinating a homeless count on behalf of the Waianae Community Outreach.
The group announced this week that dozens of volunteers will go out Aug. 27-28 and count the people living on the beach parks between Kahe Point and Kaena Point.
Some of the estimates of the homeless range from 1,000 to 4,000.
"A lot of numbers that were tossed around ... are not really substantiated," Ullman said.
The last official counts along the Waianae Coast were conducted in 2003 and 2005. The count is important, Ullman said, because it could help policymakers decide how to best address the needs of the homeless.
"It tells if (the homeless population) is growing, if it's decreasing, where it's moving to," he said, noting that the count could help show a shift in the population from one island area to another. "Sometimes you open up services, say for instance Kakaako, but you don't really end up serving the people you thought you were going to serve."
Ullman said his group hopes that once the first count is completed, they will subsequently be able to conduct tallies quarterly.
"It's an important tool to measure if interventions are having an effect or if the economy in general is continuing to have the effect," he said. "If somebody is saying there are 4,000 and you find out there is 1,500 on the beach, that could change plans."
The count comes as the state devises a plan to assist the homeless in Leeward Oahu, as well as find alternative housing for the homeless who will likely be displaced when the city renovates Waianae Coast beach parks.
"The numbers will play a pivotal point, but what is the true number is where it may get tricky," said Kaulana Park, Gov. Linda Lingle's point man on homeless solutions in Waianae.
Park said that because the homeless are a mobile population, it might be difficult to pinpoint an exact number. He also said there have been assessments made by other groups that give them an idea of the homeless number.
"We know the numbers are going to be in the thousands -- that's a given, whether it's 2,000, 4,000, we know the number is high, no question about that," Park said. "It's always good to find out whatever information we can get, but we feel pretty comfortable with the data that we've got for now."
He said that while a more accurate number could help with things like budgeting resources, the more important information is determining how best to help.
"You have to understand what are the population's needs. That's what we're looking at -- what are their health problems, are they working," Park said. "It's not just the numbers; it's more important about what are their needs so that we can match services to the people that are there."
Park said the state and city are scheduled to meet again today to work out a plan that would allow the city to proceed with renovating parks in the fall while the state finds alternative housing.
Ullman said several organizations have already offered to help but that they welcome more volunteers.