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‘Housing First’ program making a positive difference in the lives of hundreds

Winston Hale in Chinatown is currently home to four Housing First micro units.

HONOLULU – Three years since the city’s Department of Community Services began the Housing First program, a total of 315 vouchers have been funded, which provides housing support through rental assistance and case management for up to 315 households and approximately 450 individuals at any time. Housing First, which has been used successfully throughout the country, offers permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible for individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

In 2018, 91 percent of Honolulu’s Housing First clients came into the program as chronically homeless, and over 60 percent came directly from living on the streets.

“Housing First is but one of the many tools the city uses to help those most in need by giving them a hand up and not a hand out,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “It’s clear that the only permanent solution to homelessness is housing, and Housing First accomplishes this by placing individuals who face a variety of challenges into housing and then wrapping services around them so they don’t return to our streets.”

In fact, researchers with the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, College of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology’s Biological Determinants Lab, have found the city’s Housing First program has produced substantial benefits at the individual level, community level, and institutional level.

In the first three years of the Housing First Initiative, an average of 86 percent of all clients have remained housed, and among all the clients, 74 percent remain in the program and have been housed for an average of 2.4 years. The program has also had a major impact on clients as their stress levels and drug use were reduced, and the clients participated more vigorously in support groups. The study also found that there was a decrease in the rate of arrests, incarceration, and emergency room use, as well as an increase in community involvement such as volunteerism and group activities.

“Getting the most vulnerable members of our community immediate aid and support helps all of us by preventing them from returning to homelessness, reducing drug and alcohol use, and decreasing arrests and incarceration,” said Department of Community Services Director Pamela Witty-Oakland. “The Housing First program has also helped ease the strain on our emergency rooms and inpatient hospitals throughout O‘ahu.”

There are a total 315 vouchers that are funded through the city’s Housing First program. At least 100 vouchers are to be used for each of the three increments. Total city funding for all of the Housing First Increments from Fiscal Year 2015 through Fiscal Year 2019 (July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2019) is $17,783,371. There is an additional $1,200,000 from HOME funds that is added to the Housing First Increment III program for additional Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) housing vouchers.

For more information about the Housing First program and other services that are available, please contact Timothy Ho at 768-7818. More information about the program is also available on the Office of Housing website at

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