Hawaii’s Homeless Population

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Hawaii’s homeless population has increased about 30% since 2007-2018. Homelessness is a critical problem in the world today, especially in Hawaii. Families, men, women, children, teenagers, veterans, and drug addicts are living on the streets. Many of them sleep on sidewalks/parks, bathe in public restrooms, and panhandle on busy street corners. Although their lives are awful, they often make our public parks look like campsites and take away opportunities for families to have gatherings. The Government and Nonprofit organizations are trying to solve Hawaii’s homeless issue using different tactics, but they are not always the most effective.

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Hawaii’s homeless population grew significantly in 2009 when the mainland began to give homeless one-way tickets to Hawaii. The homeless were bribed with a free forever trip to a paradise. Nevertheless, the homeless issue has become a nightmare for the residence. Today there are about 7,921 homeless people in the Hawaiian Islands. That is about 487 homeless per 100,000 people in Hawaii, one of the largest ratios in the United States. Although this is one of the major causes of Hawaii’s increase in homelessness, there are many more. Over the years, many organizations have been trying to fix the increasing homeless issue. Whether it is a government run project or a nonprofit organization we are all trying to reach the same goal. Despite both efforts, the current solution is faulty.

Oahu needs to take a step back and think, who should be the main leaders in solving the homeless issue? The nonprofits or the government?Nonprofit organizations give homeless people hope and a sense of dignity to rebuild their lives. The nonprofit organization River of Life Mission’s model is, Hopelessness to Hope. The River of life mission is Restoring broken lives through Rescue, Rehabilitation, & Reintegration. From Monday through Friday the River of Life Mission offers meals, clothing, haircuts, welfare-to-work job training, Bible studies, and etc to rescue the homeless. These services provide the homeless an opportunity to take control of their lives. They also have a class to rehabilitate and teach the homeless everyday tasks.

River of Life built a chocolate factory to assist addicts through this grant transition in their lives. This job teaches them everything from life skills to chocolate making (River of Life Mission). River of Life is not the only homeless aiding nonprofit organization. Another organization is Family Promise of Hawaii. They assist eight families about 28 people each week. Throughout the week these homeless are sheltered at a church. A story was shared by an unknown homeless person, who rebuilt their life. They said their family was staying at a hotel and ran out of money, which forced them on the streets. Through this troubling time, they were helped by Family Promise, and they were allowed to live in the church for free while they were building up a budget. The unknown person got a full-time job at a warehouse which helped him/her to get into a housing program. He/she said this gave them a sense of empowerment which motivated him/her to never want to be homeless again.

These nonprofit organizations are supporting the clients not only financially but also spiritually. They are trying to assist them to want to create a better life for themselves rather than putting them down for being unable to provide for themselves (Nagaso).The government has the power to create laws and funds to end homeless. Governor Ige believes that there is no quick fix to homelessness. In 2016 according to Hawaii News Now, Hawaii’s governor came up with a Short, Medium, and Long-term plan to put an ending to homelessness. His short-term goal was to persuade landlords to participate in lowering costs of rent for homeless so that it would be more accessible to them. He and his team were also planning on focusing on a permanent housing solution to get rid of encampments in the long run.

Currently, in 2018, the Medium-term is in action. Assuming that he has convinced the landlords to participate in lowering their rent, he should now be trying to develop rules and process them among the state housing agencies. Medicaid and other services should also be also introduced to homeless. Then they would know of available healthcare plans which may help them to save money so that they can pay for future loans. Much of the homeless population in seemingly hopeless situations believe that their best shot at life would be in jail. A free place to stay, a bathroom, a shower, free food is all offered during their stay. However, the government is trying to persuade them that if they put their mind to it, they will be able to create a living for themselves with hard work and dedication. In the future, 2020, the governor plans to have 10,000 new housing units for the homeless. This will reduce the amount of unsheltered homeless giving them a place to stay. The governor wants to reduce the unsheltered homeless to zero people, so that not only the residents and tourist of Hawaii feel safe but also the homeless (Blair).

Progress is slowly being made. The government is in the process of closing the Waianae Encampment. In this encampment, there are roughly about 169 people and 148 dogs with a total of 133 camps. The government is taking away this encampment from these homeless because they are abusing the land by not throwing away their trash. However, it is taking a long time, due to trying to find housing for these people and their pets. Although the government is creating these rules, the residence says they do not want to leave. Chung-Lono, a resident of the Waianae encampment, explains about how she felt during this transition she said that It’s hard. This gave me a sense of belonging, some kind of purpose to live. Through hard times like these, the government must remember to appeal to the homeless too, so that they will cooperate with them. Helping to rebuild their lives, may give them a greater sense of purpose in their lives (Hurley).

According to all the data and facts given, I believe that the best solution would be a collaboration between all non-profit organizations and the government. Each of these groups has a key ingredient to end homelessness. If the government and nonprofit organizations are able to cooperate with one another, I believe they would be more efficient in the work which they do. This project could also be shared within the Hawaii community to get residents involved in saving their aina (island). Through this solution, the government may contribute to the needed funds, and the nonprofit organizations may contribute by reaching out to the homeless. Through all the nonprofit organizations, I have read about, they are all about creating relationships with the homeless, restoring their dignity, and most of all empowering them to take control of their lives. However, there are a couple of since issues with these nonprofits; for example, they do not have an unlimited supply in what they may offer the homeless. They need to rely on the donations given to them because these donations also determine the number of people which they may help.

Currently, Family Promise only has the budget to assist 28 people per week; but if they got a larger fund, maybe they would be able to afford to help 40 people a week. If we add the government into this picture with governor Ige’s plan, the rate at which homeless people would become housed would increase. Maybe by 2020 or sooner, the governor’s plan of having zero unsheltered homeless people on the streets could possibly be successful. Homelessness is clearly a problem in Hawaii today, and the government and nonprofit organization play an important role in reducing Hawaii’s homeless numbers. The ways which we are currently dealing with homelessness keeps Hawaii at a minimal decreasing rate of homeless people per year.

I believe that if the government and nonprofits come up with a collaboration, they will be able to reduce the homeless population quicker. Through this idea, if they were to support each other, excel in their strengths, and rely on each other in their weakness we as an island may only head towards success. Hawaii’s current situation may keep us at a steady rate of homelessness; however, to make a safer and better home for future generations, everyone must take on a more active role and find tasks which they will perform their best at.

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Hawaii's Homeless Population. (2019, Mar 26). Retrieved January 28, 2023 , from

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