HONOLULU (KHON2) — As families and communities prepare for their upcoming Thanksgiving Day feasts, November is National Homelessness Awareness Month.

And right before Thanksgiving, Homelessness Awareness Week will be taking place between Nov. 12 through Nov. 21, which leads into Giving Tuesday.

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“November is often associated with the formal start of the holiday season, a time where many are reminded of family near, far, and whom may have lost contact,” said a spokesperson for the Institute for Human Services. “As such, many are reminded of those experiencing homelessness and housing instability, wondering if a loved one may be among them.”

The dire issue of houseless here in the islands is beginning to reach a fever pitch. With homeless sweeps continuing and more and more people finding themselves without a house or an apartment they can afford to live in, we need for our leaders to understand the importance of taking on this issue without fear.

As we know, houselessness is not a result of a person being lazy. According to research done by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are 53% of the working population who cannot afford to buy a home or to rent a residence. These people work for wages that are not enough to provide for their basic needs.

These numbers can sew fear into us, and this fear tends to paralyze any movement towards solutions.

The fact that so many people who are employed are houseless may be an indication as to why the average person wants to ignore the problem. If people can be houseless and work, then what is preventing any number of people from losing their houses due to an economic climate over which they have no control.

The 2022 Point in Time Count provided Hawaiʻi with a snapshot into how many people living here are experiencing houselessness.

The initiative found that 5,937 people are houseless in Hawai’i with 3,951 of those on O’ahu. They also found that there was an 11% increase in the number of people who are experiencing houselessness between 2020 and 2022. This included a 24% decrease in those who could not locate at least temporary housing.

Before 2022, the average percentage of individuals who experienced chronic houselessness was around nine percent; but in 2022, that increased to 18%.

There are ways that the average citizen can educate themselves on houseless. Let’s take a look at those.

Throughout November, the Institute for Human Services will host multiple media opportunities. These events will feature IHS employees along with formerly houseless individuals who will share information about the programs and services that are successfully mitigating the impacts of houselessness.

On Nov. 3, IHS attended panels at the Hawaiʻi Homelessness and Housing Conference. The even featured experts in mental health and substance abuse along with community outreach specialists and experts on kupuna and familial financial hardships.

Houseless youth has become a major issue facing residents of Hawaiʻi. The Hawaiʻi Statewide Office on Homelessness and Housing Solutions said that Hawaiʻi has approximately 3,600 youth as of Dec. 31, 2021.

Meanwhile, agencies such as RYSE are moving to intercede on the behalf of Hawaiʻi’s houseless youth with shelters and programs meant to foster economic and educational opportunities for those youth.

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But they need help…. So, as you shop for Thanksgiving meals, make a point to offer some charity to your community and seek out ways you can help mitigate the damages experienced by our houseless populations.