The tropical island of Hawaii is a popular tourist destination yet the island nation struggles with the issue of homelessness. Thousands of Hawaii’s locals live in tents, cars or cramped spaces with their children and families. According to the Point in Time Count sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, an estimated 5,973 individuals endured homelessness in Hawaii in 2022. Several local organizations are committed to helping families secure shelter and meet their other basic needs.
Uncovering Homelessness in Hawaii
According to the organization Homeless Hawaii, poverty, mental illness, addiction, trauma, unstable employment and family violence contribute to homelessness in Hawaii. Native Hawaiians are particularly susceptible to many of these issues. Hawaii has a high cost of living, and the average income does not support this. As of 2022, the average minimum wage in Hawaii stood at $12 an hour. However, the average sales price of a home statewide is above $800,000 as of 2023. A single adult would need to make at least $22 an hour to afford to live in Hawaii. Families with three children and both parents working would require a living wage of almost $40. Hawaii has limited land and high costs for transportation, food, child care and medical care, which exacerbates the homelessness crisis.
4 Local Charities Addressing Homelessness in Hawaii
- Project Hawai’i, Inc: This nonprofit assists more than 1,600 homeless children a year across the islands of O’ahu, Maui and the Big Island of Hawai’i. Project Hawai’i “strives to change the lives of children by providing a sense of stability through interactive programs, including educational summer camps, holiday events, school support and educational training,” its website says. The organization’s efforts also center around providing nutritious meals, hygiene care and emergency services to children in need. Since its establishment in 2003, Project Hawai’i, Inc has helped more than 2,000 homeless children in Hawaii rise out of poverty through the resources, essential services and support necessary to thrive and establish self-sufficiency. One individual who received aid from the nonprofit now owns her own business and home. Another homeless teen mom living in her car could not complete school and required childcare support. The organization helped her build a successful jewelry business and placed her children in Project Hawai’i’s programs. Project Hawai’i gave her the chance to build a new life, in her own home with her children.
- The Institute for Human Services: The Institute for Human Services works with an exclusive focus on alleviating homelessness in Hawaii. It envisions a “community where homeless people are empowered with hope, dignity and confidence to quickly access and sustain a safe, decent and affordable home,” its website says. The private nonprofit’s success includes housing 1,628 clients, providing services to 1,258 people and distributing 301,684 meals. The story of IHS’s establishment began in 1978 through the efforts of Father Claude DuTeil. In 1982, IHS officially became a private nonprofit. IHS’s services involve active outreach to people living on the streets, providing three meals a day, health services, job search services, tutoring and activities programs for children.
- Family Promise of Hawai’i: Since 2006, this organization has taken a holistic approach to addressing homelessness in Hawaii. Through the provision of “shelter, meals, case management, homelessness prevention and stabilization services to [more than] 4,730 family members,” Family Promise of Hawai’i ensures that families facing housing insecurity find long-term stability. After providing emergency or short-term shelter, the organization helps individuals through education, employment development, referral to community resources and ongoing case management. About 80% of individuals receiving short-term shelter move on to secure permanent housing.
- Hawaii H.O.M.E. Project: This local nonprofit aims to “improve quality and access to health care for individuals in Hawaii experiencing houselessness while increasing student and physician awareness and understanding of the houseless and their health care needs,” its website says. The nonprofit also provides free medical services and health tests, alongside distributing hygiene kits and school supplies, among other efforts.
Homelessness is a human rights issue. By overlooking the issue of homelessness, the world fails to uphold the internationally recognized human right of adequate housing. Fortunately, the commitments of several local organizations in Hawaii ensure that the people of Hawaii are able to secure their most basic needs.
– Ellie Bruce