Hawaii Declares a Homeless State of Emergency

Hawaii Declares a Homeless State of Emergency
General Health

There are so many homeless people in Hawaii that Governor David Ige declared a state of emergency last Friday to address the problem. Hawaii has the highest per capita homeless rate in the country and the number of people without homes has jumped 23% in the last year.

The declaration will allow the state to build a homeless shelter capable of accommodating 15 families at a time at a faster rate. Four potential sites are currently being considered.

“We are making sure that we have options for those who are homeless to move into an emergency shelter, and the biggest deficit in the system is shelter space for families,” Ige said. “So the emergency proclamation would allow us to stand up shelters for families in an expeditious manner.”

In addition to the 23% jump in the number of homeless citizens, there was a 46% increase in the number of homeless families between 2014 and 2015, according to Scott Morishige, state homeless coordinator.

The number of homeless people living in Hawaii is relatively small compared to places like New York (80,000), Texas (28,500) and California (114,000); however, the population of Hawaii is significantly smaller. Hawaii has the highest rate of homelessness per capita of any of the 50 states, at 465 homeless people for every 100,000 citizens. Maybe the homeless of navigating to Hawaii to achieve the most happiness possible?

Hawaii will spend more than $1.3 million to expand services to the state’s homeless population, including the new shelter and funds for Hawaii’s Housing First program and programs that assist families in paying deposits and rent. Housing First is unique because it doesn’t require individuals to get sober before accepting them into the program; instead, they treat the underlying mental illness. [1]

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Ige announced a state of emergency just days after a makeshift homeless encampment in Honolulu was dismantled by the government. The camp, known as Kakaako, was home to some 300 people and had existed for several years. Neighbors had complained of the crime and health risk associated with the site, and local government believed it was hurting tourism. [2]

The cleanup of the camp was heavily criticized by the local United Nations agency. Ige bragged that more of the families removed from Kakaako have been given superior housing accommodations, but the remaining families were left with nowhere to go.

This is not the first time a homeless emergency has been declared recently. Last month, the Los Angeles City Council declared a state of emergency and requested $100 million to deal with the crisis. Homelessness increased 12% in 2 years in L.A., according to figures from the L.A. Homeless Services Authority. [3]


[1] NBC News

[2] RT

[3] CNN

Featured image credit: © Nicholas Kamm / AFP