- Associated Press - Friday, June 19, 2015

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - State figures show that Hawai’i Island’s homeless population has more than doubled in the last two years.

According to the annual point-in-time count released Thursday, the homeless population on Hawai’i Island increased from 557 in 2013 to 869 in 2014. There are currently 1,241 reported in 2015.

The number of sheltered homeless grew from 160 to 220 in those three years, while the number of unsheltered increased from 397 to 1,021 in the same time period, reported Hawaii News Now (http://bit.ly/1ISBRRR).

“We’ve been experiencing a high increase in homelessness — 53 percent from fiscal year 2013 to 2014. We’ve seen an increase in all areas of the island— Hilo, Pahoa, Oceanview, Kailua-Kona, Honoka’a. On nearly every island in every region — homelessness is increasing,” said Brandee Menino, Hope Services Hawai’i CEO.

Menino said about 60 percent of the homeless they served last year were completely new to their programs, and of that number less than seven percent were from outside of Hawaii. She says the vast majority are local residents.

Hilo resident Nicole Naha said the homeless community isn’t understood.

“The cops, the businesses — they get mad at the homeless, but they don’t understand how we feel. We no more nowhere to go,” said Naha.

Funding for support services has not kept up with the rising homeless population.

Local officials said that the number of homeless people may actually be much higher than what the state statistics reveal. Officials have said more accurate numbers would possibly lead to an increase in funding that would ensure critical services continue for homeless residents.

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Information from: KGMB-TV, http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/

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