State sees increase in calls for homeless outreach on Oahu

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii State Homeless Coordinator Scott Morishige said their office has been getting more calls from the public asking for outreach services to go out to homeless camps that have been popping up around Oahu.

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“People are reporting that they see more people on the street, but that might be just because the encampments are more visible than they’ve been in the past,” said Morishige.

Since City and County of Honolulu parks and state parks on Oahu are closed, Morishige said the homeless are moving into new areas.

City Council Member Carol Fukunaga said her office has seen an increase in complaints about the homeless in the downtown area.  More tents are going up in front of businesses that have shut down due to the pandemic.

While police can intervene, Morishige said his office is also doing what it can.

“When we get these calls, we get a dispatch team to go out and offer services,” said Morishige. “For individuals like a private business, HPD will work with the landowner to see if the landowner is willing to [charge individuals for trespassing].”

In addition to offering options to help them get off the streets, he said providers are handing out masks, sanitizer and other protective equipment, as well as giving people the option of COVID testing through the Project Vision testing program.

“We have mechanisms in place to screen individuals and to test them. If they need to, they can get connected to the cares line either to the temporary quarantine and isolation center in Iwilei or to, based on their level of need, a hotel unit managed by the Department of Health,” said Morishige.

While the state doesn’t have the current count yet on the homeless population, he said there is a worry that it could grow in the future.

“I think definitely were concerned about seeing an increase in homelessness over time, due to the high rate of unemployment and due to the economy,” said Morishige.

However, there is a bright side. In July, he said they were able to move 518 people into permanent housing, which is a higher amount than normal.

Individuals can report a homeless encampment to the state by calling 586-0193. They can also e-mail the state at gov.homelessness@hawaii.gov.

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