Last week as I took my children to eat dinner, I noticed a very sad sight. Across the way from where we ate, I noticed a woman dressed in a bright teal muumuu sleeping on the sidewalk. She had her shopping cart beside her and lay on the hard cement with nothing else. It used to be a rare sight to see right in the community where I live, but not anymore.
The news today was that Hawaii has the highest per capita homeless rate in the US. It’s not a proud distinction to have. The homeless have also returned to Waikiki after the lifeguards leave and have been using the beaches as their toilets or sleeping in lifeguard towers.
With more homeless, we’ve had our share of thefts from those living in the nearby bushes too. The edge our fields are sometimes trashed up from vagrants too. The once empty brushes have become home to many people. Thanks to the ACLU, our communities can’t get people off the street since they overturned vagrancy laws and help enable homelessness.
Not only is homelessness increasing on the suburban areas but it’s spreading into the rural communities. Without jobs in rural areas, the combination of homelessness is compounded by substance abuse also. Those two issues lead to crimes and a vicious cycle that you won’t hear much of in the media. Paradise to some has become a living hell for others.
Having worked on the North Shore areas for over 40 years, my dad has seen many folks deal with the cycle of drugs. Without any education or support to pursue goals the further oneself, many young people get caught up in crime, drug abuse, and eventually jail. Some don’t make it to jail but live in a vicious cycle of poverty.
My dad and brother have taken many folks under their wings to give them an opportunity to learn how to work and stay working. Despite going to public school, some people can barely read or write or do simple math. If one does not have the basic skills, how can they hold a job to earn a living? They simply can’t without being taught.
Being outside and using one’s hands to plant something that will produce food is one of the oldest occupations that too few know how to do. However, for those who aren’t skilled at higher level work, this is a start to obtaining something to live on. Many other farms help develop these basic skills to give a starting point for a better life.
Life on the farm also teaches work ethic, dedication, and perseverance. It’s something that many of us take for granted. When a parent doesn’t teach this to their kids, these children grow up to be poorly prepared to work.
The latest move with environmentalism is to take away people’s livelihoods without good reason. Hawaii is not in a place to be losing opportunities for their people. We can’t afford to be fighting while so many lives are being shattered by drugs and alcohol. We need opportunities for our keiki and a goal to work collaboratively. If we want a future, we have to build that future.
Building a path to go back in time isn’t going to create opportunities to advance people. Living in the past isn’t going to send your children to college to give better careers. It’s good to remember how things were done before but trying to survive that way isn’t realistic. You’ve got to make it first then you’ll be able to live in the past. Just look at the small newbie farmers and how they amassed a fortune to now live simply. The local folks don’t have that luxury.
In some ways, homelessness is a return to our past where we started off as nomadic people. When food becomes secure, that’s when we establish ourselves. History always repeats itself and it doesn’t mean we stay back in the past. People need livelihoods in order to have a roof over their head and food in their stomachs. The homeless are like modern day nomads who are in search of food and shelter on a daily basis. Drugs and alcohol are the toxic chemicals that’s secretly poisoning families and the future of our keiki. Pointing fingers at the wrong problems only prevents us from ever doing what’s pono, which is to malama the people.
The definition of progress needs to change. Granted one cannot go back in time and live in grasshuts. But one lesson from the past that can be used today is the old local ideal of ohana and community, we vs me. The moment we forget our culture and roots is the moment that issues we thought were just mainland issues of the past on Hawaii become reality. Money is good, money is energy. But money without understanding hawaii history or what works is just unproductive and harmful. Our island home is young. We have been a state for only 56 years. In that time with the exception of this last decade there hasn’t been many major changes. The answer to our problems are in our aloha and culture. Not mainland ideals of progress. I suspect the issues will get worse as we lose Hawaii to outside money. I remember a Hawaii were we had hardly any homeless unless they were mentally ill, vets ect.