Not everything is peachy in paradise.
I was in Iwilei not long ago and noticed a huge encampment of homeless people lining a sidewalk. There were so many tents, tarps and shopping carts that I made a mental note to come back and take a closer look when I had some time.
I went back yesterday—the encampment had disappeared. But as I drove around the cramped streets of the industrial neighborhood I realized—they weren’t gone at all. They were just, well, spread out.
On every street, tiny tents clung like opihi to a corner of sidewalk here, against a wall there, to a bit grass further on down the way.
People hate seeing these tent and tarp “villages” on our sidewalks, beaches and parks. Problem is, the solution has so far eluded policy makers and thoroughly confused the public.
Yes, some choose this lifestyle. But the majority are people down on their luck, forced into homelessness because of mental illness, the high cost of rentals, illness or injury, domestic violence and who knows what other personal calamities in their lives.
Being homeless in paradise may seem like a cosmic joke, but the problem is real and it is serious.
I am convinced there is no one solution– this has to be attacked from all angles. We need to give law enforcement the power and the strategies to handle squatters more effectively. We must have more and better mental health services. We need affordable rentals. And how about raising the minimum wage so people can afford to live?
Most important of all, we need a way to persuade the public to care.