- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 20, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii is receiving $11.5 million in federal grants to combat homelessness as the number of homeless people continues to rise, but the state missed out on a grant for permanent housing that could have brought in another $450,000.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Tuesday the money Hawaii would receive for shelters and programs was up slightly from last year.

“I would have loved to have seen us be awarded that permanent supportive housing project…Unfortunately it didn’t happen for our community this time around,” said Jen Stasch, director of Partners in Care, a coalition of service providers, government agencies and others that work on homelessness issues in Hawaii. “We’re moving in the right direction to see more federal dollars come into our community, but we absolutely could use more.”

Four Hawaii programs that received funding in 2015 were not awarded grant money in 2016, but two didn’t apply for money this time because the programs weren’t focused on permanent housing, which the federal government is prioritizing with its awards, Stasch said.

The programs that applied for money but didn’t get it were Gregory House, a Honolulu shelter that serves residents with HIV and AIDS, and a program serving veterans in Barbers Point. A new program helping veterans find permanent housing got money, Stasch said.

On the plus side, the 2016 grants direct more money to programs that work to provide permanent housing Oahu’s leeward coast, where many homeless individuals and families live.

“It’s a matter of bridging what we know with what we practice and making sure communities have the support to move toward best practices, things like permanent supportive housing, rapid rehousing, and investing less in interventions that maintain people in their homelessness,” such as shelters and transitional housing, said HUD spokesman Ed Cabrera.

Also, the Institute for Human Services was granted nearly $317,000 for a new program focusing on re-housing homeless youth.

“That will allow them to pull unaccompanied youth - and unaccompanied parenting youth - off the streets and give them the case management they need and get them connected to permanent housing,” Stasch said.

Homelessness has been declining nationwide, but not in Hawaii. Since 2010, homelessness in Hawaii has grown 36 percent and veteran homelessness increased 33 percent. The number of chronically homeless individuals doubled, Cabrera said.

“Hawaii is unique in that it’s been going in the opposite direction pretty much across the board,” Cabrera said.

By contrast, homelessness in Guam fell 34 percent since 2010. Guam was granted $1.1 million in grants, the same as last year.

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