- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - Oahu’s homeless population has grown during the past year, with a higher proportion of people living on the streets rather than staying in shelters, a new report says.

A January survey by the Continuum of Care program showed that the number of homeless people on the island has increased by 34.7 percent since 2009, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (https://bit.ly/1bpRyoc). The count was part of a national study by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The organization and its volunteers counted homeless people in shelters and then spent five days tallying those on the streets. It found that 60 percent of homeless people were in shelters, the lowest percentage since 2009.

The survey counted 779 people who were chronically homeless. That’s a 19 percent jump over 2014, according to state homeless coordinator Colin Kippen.

“We are moving in the wrong direction, but the numbers say a lot about our task at hand,” Kippen said. “Criminalizing homeless people just moves them through the community. Not everyone will go into a shelter. We need to focus more on permanent housing. We’ve made a good start this year, but we need to ramp up these programs to scale.”

Jason Espero, an official with Waikiki Health, said the number may be higher this year because the effort was more organized.

“Through cooperation, we think we were able to locate more unsheltered homeless people,” he said.

Homeless advocates say the rise could also be caused by a lack of affordable housing and cuts to mental health services.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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