Have you been out to the leeward coast of Oahu lately? Have you visited Waimanalo Beach Park recently? If you haven’t, here is a brief description of disturbing trend. There are likely hundreds of tents set up along the shore and in parks. These aren’t campers. These areas are teeming with Hawaii’s homeless population. Don’t think this is simply an isolated problem. One only needs to walk around Waikiki for a few minutes to find numerous homeless individuals roaming around the tourist spot. The obvious question is why there are so many homeless people. The second question is what to do about this situation. Today we will attempt to address the first question.
Some estimate that the number of homeless residents on Oahu is something near 10,000. The amount is difficult to verify as many of the homeless move about the island and rarely settle in a spot for a significant time. The homeless problem has seen a recent resurgence as more and more homeless individuals have begun to congregate in certain areas and have created tent cities. A few of these communities can be found at Waimanalo Beach Park and on Nimitz Highway just under the viaduct. Although police has stepped up sweeps of areas where the homeless reside, it is increasingly difficult to enforce any laws because of the sheer number of homeless individuals.
The problem can be attributed to various factors facing many residents in Hawaii. For starters, the economy has been on a free-fall over the last few years as tourism has slowed and construction jobs have faltered. The housing bubble during that same time meant higher median prices for a single-family home. Local families suddenly found themselves in a mountain of debt when the jobs began to dry up and various industries slowed to a halt. In June of 2010, the median price of a single-family home on Oahu came in at $575,000. The amazing part is the price reflected a slight drop from the previous month. These factors can all be blamed for the increased homeless population.
Another variable in the problem is the increased rate of homeless individuals being sent to the islands from various mainland cities. The scenario is something out of an episode of South Park. US cities on the mainland are supplying their homeless with one-way tickets to paradise. These new arrivals can cost the state of Hawaii over $1000/month as a result of living and food assistance. The out-of-state homeless also add to the strain on various other programs and organizations dedicated to helping the homeless. Hawaii’s local politicians have tried to pin down a rough estimate on the number of homeless that come to Hawaii each year. According to a KHON report, more than 7,500 people were housed in temporary shelters last year. That number represents a 36% increase from 2005 figures. The numbers are shocking when it is discovered that about 14% of the homeless on Oahu have been here for less than one year.
It is obvious to all that the problem of homelessness in Hawaii is a major issue. The issue will grow as the economy continues to stumble and jobs are slow to return. Join Desperate America Report for a look into the solutions being currently thrown around and possible insight into solving this problem. For a state whose economy is greatly affected by tourism, Hawaii needs to do something quickly and decisively.