Youth Homelessness Starts at Age 14 on Average on Hawaii's Most Populous Island

Homeless people sleep in a park off the beach in the Waikiki neighborhood of Honolulu, Hawaii, on December 17, 2016. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

On the Hawaiian island of Oahu, youth homelessness begins at the age of 14 on average, according to a new study released Friday. The study showed that over half of homeless youth interviewed had a parent with substance abuse problems or a parent who had been incarcerated.

More, about 13 percent of respondents said they had engaged in "survival sex," exchanging sexual favors in return for shelter, food, drugs, or money, and a shocking 84 percent the study's respondents reported being unsheltered in the past year. The Street Youth Study, which obtained data through interviews with 151 individuals aged 12 to 24 on Oahu. The research was conducted by the University of Hawaii, Waikiki Health, and youth homeless advocate Hale Kipa.

"We knew it was young, but to actually get the data to affirm it, was 'Wow, this is a real issue,'" Kent Anderson, chief high-risk services officer at Waikiki Health, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser about the 14-year-old average. Hawaii is the worst state for per capita homelessness in the country, and ties with California for the second-highest percentage of unsheltered homeless youths, according to data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 51 of every 10,000 Hawaiians are homeless.

Oahu is the third largest Hawaiian island that houses about 70 percent of the state's population, according to 2010 census data.

The study comes on the heels of a January announcement from Hawaiian state lawmakers to make housing and homelessness a priority in their agenda and spending in 2018. Lawmakers said they would focus on incentivizing affordable housing developers to build more units, expanding rent subsidies for low-income residents, and creating more transitional centers to start the housing process for homeless individuals, the Associated Press reported.

Hawaii's homeless population declined in 2017 just two years after Governor David Ige declared a state of emergency in Hawaii to deal with the homelessness issue. The state's 2017 point-in-time count, which gathered data about homeless persons living in Hawaii on a single night in January 2017, showed an overall drop in the state's homeless population from 7,921 to 7,220 individuals.

Across the country, homelessness showed a slight increase from 2016 to 2017, according to a December report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that utilized the same single-night numbers.

About one in thirty youths aged 13 to 17 nationwide reported experiencing some form of homelessness in the past 12 months, according to a November 2017 report from researchers at the University of Chicago's Chapin Hall.