HONOLULU (AP) - The number of homeless in Hawaii receiving assistance from public agencies fell slightly in the last three years, but advocates say a strong need remains for affordable low-income housing.
A study by the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the state Department of Human Services concluded that homeless families and individuals had shorter stays in shelters and more found permanent housing.
"Our homeless situation is not worsening," said lead author Sarah Yuan, an associate specialist with the university's Center on the Family.
However, policymakers must aggressively work to help families climb above the poverty line, Yuan said.
"We still have people, constantly, continuously falling into this homeless situation," she said. "There is a misconception that a lot of people . . . they just stay homeless and they refuse help, and they're utilizing the state's resources."
The study, conducted every year since 2006, recorded 13,639 people who received help from a homeless outreach program in fiscal year 2013. That was 2.4 percent fewer than the previous year.
The number who stayed at a publicly funded shelter increased by 2.2 percent. Yuan said that means more homeless people moved off the streets and into emergency and transitional shelters where it's more likely they could find permanent homes.
The average stay in a transitional shelter fell by 21 days, to 224 days.
About 31 percent of the 1,536 families managed to find permanent housing in 2013, compared with 23 percent in 2012.
About 42 percent of the people served in 2013 were "new" homeless who had not been recorded in previous reports. Another 16 percent were repeat clients who had relied on services for more than a year.
Jun Yang, director of the Honolulu Office of Housing, said earlier this year there are 8,000 to 10,000 people on the state public housing waiting list and they face an estimated 10-year wait. The waiting list for federally subsidized housing is closed to new applicants, he said, because the list is so full.