via Ka Leo O Hawaii: UH Manoa Student College Newspaper & Media – Homeless demographics defy stereotypes.

By Junghee Lee


Published: Thursday, December 4, 2008

Updated: Monday, August 3, 2009

The University of Hawai’i Center on the Family’s Homeless Service Utilization Report 2008 revealed some surprising data, including the fact that 46 percent of people who use homeless services have received a high school diploma.

“They’re not the typical types of homeless in mind,” said Sylvia Yuen, director of the Center on the Family. “Some people have jobs. It’s just that their income isn’t enough to provide a shelter over their head.”

“We could see people in the streets increase, but there was no hard data,” said Yuen. “The report provides a very good data. It shows who the people are consisted of.”

While most assume the homeless are indolent adults, data reports that one-third of those in the Shelter Program are actually children under 17.

In Hawai’i, homeless services include the Shelter and Outreach programs. The Shelter Program provides homeless individuals with temporary shelter from overnight to more than 18 months.

Meanwhile, the Outreach Program aids homeless people who temporarily live in parks, beaches or cars by supplying food and clothing.

Both programs had an increase in new clients in 2007 – about 1,000 each – compared to the previous year, according to the report.

The people living in the shelter are “normal people who don’t make enough money,” according to Sarah Yuan, assistant specialist for the Center on the Family.

“If you volunteer at the shelter, you’ll see someone that looks just like you sitting down and eating food from the shelter,” Yuen added.

Yuan also explained that homelessness is a complicated issue with no single reason to explain it, while noting that students can help to address the challenges. “Being part of the homeless program is a really good experience,” Yuen said. “No matter what field you are in, knowing the lives and circumstances of different people expands your perceptive. There are lots of programs that work with the homeless that students could spend time with.”

The center has been publishing this report on the homeless since 2006.