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June 19, 2017

After statewide efforts, Hawaii sees homelessness rate decrease

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  • Despite its relatively small population and land area, Hawaii has one of the highest rates of per-capita homelessness in the United States. Homelessness affects about 505 out of every 100,000 people there.
  • Homelessness became such a large problem in the state that two years ago, Governor David Ige declared a state of emergency, which allowed additional funding to be spent on shelters and relief programs.
  • Hawaii State Homeless Coordinator Scott Morishige said that Hawaii’s high housing costs–on average, $1800 a month for a one-bedroom apartment–contribute to its homelessness problem. Also, Hawaii has the highest cost of living in the United States.
  • As an island state with limited land, development and new construction of affordable housing is difficult.
  • Many homeless people in Hawaii are repeatedly admitted into hospitals, but a University of Hawaii study said that once they transitioned into housing, their medical costs decreased by 43 percent.
  • However, due to new efforts such as a medical outreach program and Housing First, which provides the homeless with housing units, Hawaii’s homeless rate has declined for the first time in eight years by about nine percent.

  1. Essential question: Why is homelessness such a problem in the United States, the wealthiest country on Earth? 
  2. How does Hawaii’s geography and characteristics make it uniquely prone to high rates of homelessness, and those high rates of homelessness difficult to surmount?
  3. What are some of the programs that the state of Hawaii has begun to address homelessness? Which strategy, in your opinion, is most effective?
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