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Is this the worst it’s ever been?

Guam’s homeless count has been fairly steady for two decades



By Rob San Agustin

In today’s climate of ultra-charged news, social media, and different factions telling you something “was never this bad before."Is it really the worst it’s ever been? One hot-button topic is homelessness on Guam, and perspective is a vital tool to cut through the jungle of negative narratives. According to data and reporting, Guam’s homeless count has been fairly steady for two decades.


In a 2003 Bureau of Statistics and Plans report, the total homeless count was 1,007 individuals. In 2013, the Point in Time count yielded 1,271. A decade later, in 2023, it was 1,075. The familiar saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” But in this case, maybe the more homelessness has stayed the same, the more we have changed.  


On April 26, the Guam Homeless Coalition will hold its annual “Passport to Services” event. For over a decade, this event has connected the island’s homeless to the services they need, including immunizations for unhoused adults and children, health screenings, and job services screenings.


This will be my third participation in the Passport to Services with the Office of Homelessness Assistance and Poverty Prevention. I am always excited and honored to work with all of the members of the Guam Homeless Coalition to engage with new households or reconnect with long-time clients who also anticipate this annual event.

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To best describe it, the Passport to Services brings to mind a village fiesta. Remember prepping tables and chairs for visitors? The frenzied checklist of final touches needed and the anticipation as you see people arriving? The sound of music playing and the smiles, laughs, and greetings. This is true teamwork, selflessness, and unity among the coalition members working toward a goal. There is the feeling of family and familiarity all around.    


Here, we offer our unhoused residents some reprieve from their daily struggles. Sometimes we see people we haven’t seen in a while and take time to chat. For those we see often, we check how they’re doing and wish them well until next time.


There is caring, there is concern, there is dignity. There is no criminalization, there is belonging. There is no judgment but compassion. There is no dismissing but empathy. More often than not, if you listen, they want the same thing you want in your life: stability, safety, love, and happiness.


The best part of the Passport is we are all together in this makeshift village. Everyone is looking out for one another, checking who might need help or if they need anything else. Introducing someone we just met to someone who they should know.


We are all willing to give our smiles and words and precious minutes. Telling stories, getting to know others better. For those few hours, it’s a display of our humanity, community, and our culture at its best. It feels like how we used to be, how we should be.

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Today’s world can be impersonal and unkind. From WhatsApp videos being forwarded to giggle at the less fortunate to public figures criminalizing, dehumanizing, and shaming homeless individuals and their families. That is not what Guam prides itself on.


With perspective, we usually speak on how things were better “back in the day,” but considering the homeless numbers haven’t drastically changed, maybe we’re actually nostalgic for who WE used to be. As the Guam Homeless Coalition holds this year’s Passport to Services, I am hopeful we can restore and spread this sense of unity to strengthen our community response to those struggling with housing instability and poverty. If we change our perspective, it can go from the “worst it’s ever been” to “the best it can be”.  


Rob San Agustin is the director of the Office of Homelessness Assistance and Poverty Prevention and vice chair of the Guam Homeless Coalition. Send feedback to rob.sanagustin@guam.gov




















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