Hawaii Declares Emergency Over Soaring Homelessness
State has highest rate in the US
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2015 3:01 AM CDT
Updated Oct 19, 2015 6:00 AM CDT
Beachgoers walk past a tent set up on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu.   (AP Photo/Marco Garcia, FILE)
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(Newser) – Hawaii has declared a state of emergency to deal with a homelessness problem that has exploded over the last couple of years. With an estimated 7,620 homeless people amid a population of 1.36 million, the state has the worst homeless problem per capita in the US, according to a statement from the governor's office, which describes the move as a way of securing funds to help people immediately. Gov. David Ige says the emergency proclamation will help homeless people throughout the state, especially homeless families, which he says face the "biggest deficit in the system," CNN reports.

The state has seen an "alarming increase in unsheltered individuals and families" over the last two years, according to the governor's office. The move came just days after the clearance of the Kakaako homeless encampment in Honolulu, which was one of the largest in the country, the AP reports. On Friday, the same day the emergency declaration was signed, crews were already at work installing converted shipping containers at the site of a new Honolulu shelter. "If they're living in tents now, the individual units are going to be just as large or larger," a spokesman for the Honolulu Office of Strategic Development tells the AP. (Los Angeles declared a homeless emergency last month.)