July 17, 2020
Prior to the current pandemic, many households were one unexpected life event away from eviction and homelessness. COVID-19 is the life event that took us all by surprise. Families that live paycheck to paycheck (about half of Hawaii’s households) are more vulnerable than ever. While we have worked to prevent many families from becoming homeless through short-term rental assistance (we’ve already experienced a 400% increase in requests for help), many will inevitably lose their housing once the State’s moratorium on evictions is lifted. Some projections anticipate a 30-40% increase in homelessness in the coming months and year.
We are quickly scaling our services to meet the upcoming need. Compared to this time last year, we have helped 110% more families in the first half of 2020. We've accomplished this by increasing our Prevention and Diversion services, offering new housing resources through our Rapid Re-Housing and Permanent Supportive Housing programs, and creating new shelter options through partnerships with Camp Mokuleia and a Waikiki hotel.
But, more is needed. Unfortunately, the wait list for our services grows daily. As it stands, Oahu’s homeless service system does not have the capacity to meet the current need, yet the demand continues to rise. We are looking at new ways to increase the community's safety net for newly homeless families through safe, family shelter options and rapid re-housing resources. We are also continuing to invest in prevention and diversion programming to help keep families in housing. As a community, we will get through this challenging time together.
Conversations About Racial Injustice
In light of the events happening in our country and as a leader in family homeless services, we must examine the inequity that exists in housing. Black Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders are more likely to experience homelessness than the general population. According to the 2020 Point In Time Count (an annual street and shelter count that determines the number of people experiencing homelessness on Oahu on a single night) Black or African American people were over represented by 67% and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders were over represented by 210%.