‘Homeless campers evicted’
That was the top headline in Friday’s TGI after campers at Anahola Beach Park were told to vacate or face arrest last week. We’re not disputing that these folks weren’t supposed to be there, but we will argue this is a sign of the severity of the homeless problem in Hawaii and specifically, on Kauai. When people must live in tents, when they have nowhere else to go, the permanent solution shouldn’t be to chase them away. When families have nowhere to go and must sleep in their car, the final solution isn’t to knock on the window and tell them to move along. It seems, though, that’s what we usually do.
No surprise that homelessness is a problem. Kauai is a very expensive place to live. Rent, utilities, groceries and gas — all of which hit the shrinking middle class and the rising low-income hard — are among the highest in the nation. Jobs aren’t easy to come by. Jobs that pay well for blue-collar folks are at a premium. There are some who argue if people can’t make it here, then they should leave and go to North Dakota and work in the oil fields. Plenty of jobs there. But if this is your home, it’s difficult to pack up and move on, especially from a place known as paradise. So despite difficult living conditions, people stay. They want to remain in the place they love and there is much to love about Kauai.
Some will argue, the homeless have only themselves to blame. Should have gone to college, learned a better skill. Too lazy to work, some say. They drink, do drugs and smoke. They came here without work and assumed everyone would greet them with open arms and care for them. There’s also the argument, the more you do for the homeless, the more you’ll have. Provide free food, clothes, services, a place to sleep, and you’ll soon have all the homeless men and women you can handle and they’ll keep coming back. There will always be those who take advantage of resources and the kindness of others. But that shouldn’t stop us from trying to assist the homeless. Many try, but have fallen on tough times.
There are short-term solutions to help the homeless, to make daily living a bit better. Soup kitchens, shelters, nonprofits, churches try to help. So do community groups, like Voices of Kauai, which works to bring credibility to the working homeless and the families that have nowhere to go.
Bottom line — the homeless population on Kauai is going to increase before it decreases. More will arrive via plane, somehow scrapping together ticket fare to get here. Others will lose jobs, lose their housing. Take a look around when you’re out and about, when you visit parks, the path by the ocean, places off the beaten path. The homeless are here and they’re not leaving, even if they wanted to. Just check out the price of a plane ticket, one way. The homeless are not just unknown people. They are friends, family and neighbors who work hard and need a chance.
We will likely never end homelessness. We don’t know the solution. We’re not going to call for building homeless shelters, establishing tent city sites or giving out food vouchers or providing free job training. Even on Oahu, they’re wondering what to do with their homeless, an escalating problem there.
We do know this — generosity, awareness, compassion and kindness go a long way toward improving lives. And those won’t cost you anything.