HONOLULU (KHON2) — Houselessness is the lack of housing available in one’s life. These individuals are often referred to as homeless, but advocates have changed this demarcation to houseless since a home is not necessarily a physical building. For many, a home is where we find a family; and a family can exist in any situation.

There are many reasons a person is houseless. But, we seem to continue to believe that there is only one reason for houselessness, that reason being laziness.

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Houselessness is not a result of a person being lazy. According to research, there are 53 percent of those without a house who are employed. These people work, and they work for payment that is not enough to provide their basic needs.

This fear tends to paralyze movement towards solutions; but at this point, we can no longer afford to ignore the problem.

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 they 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 a snapshot into how many people in Hawai’i are experiencing houselessness.

The Count found that 5,937 people are houseless in Hawai’i with 3,951 of those on O’ahu. The Count also found that there was an 11 percent increase in the number of people who are experiencing houselessness between 2020 and 2022. This included a 24 percent decrease in those who could locate at least temporary housing.

Maui has experienced a six percent increase in houselessness, and Kauai’i and Hawai’i islands saw a five percent increase.

Before 2022, the average percentage of individuals who experienced chronic houselessness was nine percent. In 2022, that increased to 18 percent.

With numbers like these, it is clear that there is more to this issue than a large group of people being lazy. There needs to be solutions, and we need leaders bold enough to take action and strong enough to have a vision for that action.

Up to this point, we have had none of this.

However, today, Gov. Josh Green provided leadership. He is taking the bull by the horns, so to speak. In his State of the State Address, Green laid out how he wants to tackle houselessness.

“As long as we are in a housing crisis, we will treat it like an emergency,” said Gov. Green. “This emergency proclamation streamlines the construction process for housing, removing unnecessary red tape and enables our community partners to tackle homelessness and the housing shortage head-on.”

Now that the gauntlet has been thrown, will our legislators pick it up?

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The fact that houselessness is an emergency in our state cannot be overstated. It is time that we take this issue seriously and take action.