Homelessness is a major issue in Honolulu, with 2.36% of the population living without a home. This number is higher than those in emergency or transitional housing, which stands at 1.66%. The pandemic has caused a 4% increase in the number of homeless people taking refuge with the help of relief funds, but this is expected to decrease as the emergency ends. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) conducts an annual count of homeless people on a single night in January.
This count includes those in emergency shelters, transitional housing, and safe shelters. It also includes those with mental illnesses who are receiving ongoing support for single homeless adults. The Institute of Human Services (IHS) is the state's largest provider of emergency shelters, but they are struggling to hire and retain staff due to the stress caused by the pandemic and wage increases in other sectors. This makes it difficult for nonprofit organizations to compete. Partners in Care, the Oahu planning agency that coordinates housing and services for the homeless, is also facing challenges such as housing shortages, high staff turnover among homeless service providers, and the very definition of chronic homelessness. Under former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell's “compassionate disturbance” policy, the goal of homeless raids was often promoted as a target of homeless raids.
This has caused a lack of trust among homeless people when it comes to accessing permanent housing. A second outreach and navigation center for the homeless opened in Wahiawa last month, providing services to individuals and families without shelter 24 hours a day and adding 40 beds to the island's shelter capacity. To be considered chronically homeless, it must be proven that a person has been homeless consecutively for 12 months or that they have been homeless on at least four separate occasions in the past three years. On the day of the Waianae raid, there were an estimated 24 beds in open shelters on Oahu, most of them located in a men's shelter in urban Honolulu. Morishige could not say with certainty that there would have been an increase in the number of homeless people, but he recognized that homelessness has become more visible due to the restrictions imposed by COVID-19. In conclusion, homelessness is a major issue in Honolulu and there are numerous barriers that homeless people face when it comes to getting help with all kinds of things from housing to routine medical care and treatment options for mental health and substance abuse.