Homeless services face challenges ahead


POSTED: Friday, November 21, 2008





        The number of homeless people provided with services has increased significantly.



ATTEMPTS to provide shelter and other services for Hawaii's homeless have improved in recent years but the problem is likely to increase as the global economic crisis strikes at our shores. Agencies that provide those services should prepare for the worst.

A study conducted by the University of Hawaii's Center on the Family found that homeless people who were provided shelters in the state grew from 5,535 to 6,733 from the 2005 to 2007 fiscal years—an increase of 22 percent. All of the increase was on Oahu and Maui; the number of sheltered homeless actually declined on Kauai and the Big Island.

Likewise, 5,981 new clients were served by the outreach services in the 2007 fiscal year. The number served on Oahu and Maui nearly doubled from 2005 figures while the number of new clients declined on Kauai and the Big Island.

A study conducted in 2003 estimated that, on a given day, more than 4,000 people were without roofs while fewer than 2,000 were provided shelter. The new study doesn't say whether that has changed, but the increase in homeless clients means the state “;really opened up more of these emergency and transitional shelters,”; said Sylvia Yuen of the Center on the Family.

Hawaii's seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate reached 4.2 percent in September, up from 2.7 percent a year earlier. Jobless figures are expected to continue to rise as tourism figures dwindle.

While Hawaii's rental vacancy rate has doubled in the past year, rental rates have stayed about the same. The UH study found that 81 percent of those receiving services for the homeless were without jobs, while 9 percent worked part-time and 10 percent had full-time jobs.