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In Hawaii, while on your vacation, you may notice we have a homeless problem just as you do where you live. When you think about it, it’s a wonder that our problem isn’t a lot greater, considering how much more comfortable it must be to be homeless in Hawaii than it is in, say, Chicago. You’d think every Hawaii-bound ship would be loaded with homeless stowaways who recognize that.
There’s a definite hierarchy among Hawaii’s homeless. We have the lonely mentally ill, who simply have no one to take care of them, no means of taking care of themselves and no social structure from the government to help. We have the lazy and indolent, who would rather beg and pick trash than clean up and find work. We have the working homeless — people with jobs who have children in school and who manage their responsibilities, but cannot afford places to live other than their cars.
And we have the wily homeless — charming wayfarers who use their wits and always seem to get along just fine without a place to actually call home.
Many of the latter group once were vacationers who just hung around.
Here’s a sample scenario. You can imagine how many variations of this theme there might be.
Your local family is enjoying a Sunday at the beach. Couple of kids, a cooler, beach chairs, some cold drinks and sandwiches and some snacks. It’s a beautiful day. A nice-looking young man lays out a blanket nearby and then spends some time in the surf. When he gets back to his blanket, he towels off and flashes a gleaming smile. As your family begins to pe into the food and drinks, you notice that he is alert to your activity and you offer to share. He gratefully accepts and pulls his blanket over next to yours.
Nice guy. Very polite. Seemingly very bright. He says he’s been on the island for his vacation; now is giving thought to extending his stay and testing the job market. He’s a specialist in dolphin studies based in Miami, Florida and works on projects around the world, most recently in South Africa.
One thing leads to another. He just checked out of his hotel, he says, in anticipation of flying out that evening, but the beautiful day at the beach has pretty much changed his mind.
Hey, you’ve got room! The couch on your enclosed lanai at home is comfortable and he’d even have his own bathroom. He could stay there until he finds something else and while he looks for work. Maybe the Oceanic Institute just down the road on the east coast of Oahu is looking for help.
This guy is going to be with you for at least two weeks, enjoying your breakfasts and dinners and spending his days in the surf as he allegedly looks for work during the day. He’ll pitch in with little jobs around the house and entertain the family with funny stories during meals. Then he’ll move on because, charming as he is, he really is kind of in the way. As much as you hate to do it, you have to ask him to make other plans.
No problem. He’ll simply move on to another part of the island, find another family on another beach, and repeat the process. He may well be around for years.
He certainly isn’t someone easily identified as a “homeless person,” but there he is. We who live in Hawaii bring it on ourselves. We’re welcoming, we enjoy sharing, and we like to show off all the things these islands offer.
We’ll never learn.