A snapshot of Honolulu’s houseless population

This year's PIT is most accurate yet, thanks to new database and better organization

Will Caron

Each year the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires Honolulu county to conduct a Point in Time (PIT) count of Oahu’s houseless. Literally a snapshot of the houseless population, the PIT happens on a random day during the year. This years’ took place on the night of January 22, 2014.

Access to the new Homeless Management Information Systems database helped the Honolulu Department of Community Services plan their count strategy better, resulting in a more accurate snapshot of Oahu’s houseless than in previous years. As was expected, this resulted in a higher count than ever before. The report also says that even with the increased accuracy, there are almost certainly houseless that still went uncounted.

This year’s count identified a total of 4,712 homeless people on O‘ahu, 2,356 individuals and 2,356 people living in families. There were 1,633 unsheltered homeless people, an 11.47% increase since 2013. There was a slight decline in the number of homeless people living in families since last year, but a 7.3% increase in homeless individuals. These numbers reflect a steady overall increase of homeless people over the last several years and is also higher due to improved execution of the PIT.

While the number of homeless individuals and families were exactly the same, 92% of Oahu’s homeless families were sheltered on the night of the count, while just 39% of homeless individuals were sheltered. There was also an increase in unsheltered chronically homeless individuals, going from 505 in 2013 to 558 this year. The PIT also revealed that a considerable segment of unsheltered chronically homeless people suffer from severe mental illness and/or substance abuse, afflictions that makes utilizing emergency or transitional shelters, most of which require treatment and sobriety as preconditions to admittance, problematic.

Mayor Caldwell released a statement in which he said, “There are people who fall through the cracks in the system and end up on the street. Whether it’s due to mental illness, substance abuse, or a combination of the two, these are the most visible and vulnerable among us, and we have the obligation to care for them. Many of our unsheltered chronically homeless people suffer from severe mental illness and substance abuse. Housing First is proven to place this extremely challenging population into permanent supportive housing.  It saves money over cycling them through our prisons, emergency rooms, and shelters, and it’s the humane thing to do.”