When the governor of Hawaii announced his plan this week to
buy the state’s homeless one-way tickets to the continental U.S., it was the latest in a series of efforts aimed at curbing the Aloha State’s massive homeless problem.
Low wages and high-priced housing have given Hawaii the third-largest homeless population per capita in the country. More than 7,500 people live on Oahu’s streets and beaches, but a large number of them are native Hawaiians and they don’t want to go anywhere.
The native communities in Hawaii are often the poorest and border toxic landfills, chemical research facilities, and pesticide test crops. Waianae is Oahu’s largest native community and has more homeless than anywhere else in the state.
Business Insider visited Waianae in mid-July and toured the largest tent city there. The following photos offer a glimpse of what life is like for the homeless in Hawaii.
Twelve hundred people a day visited during the first half of 2013 and spent $US2.6 million every 24 hours.
Hawaii's almost 8 million visitors spent more than $US14 billion in 2012 and visited Oahu more than any other island.
Up to 300 people live here at any given time. Most of them are native Hawaiians faced with a high cost of living and low-wage jobs.
Samson Kama lives in Waianae and helps deliver food to camp residents each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Kama says 90% of the 200 people now in the tent city are native Hawaiians and have no desire to take the state's offer of a free plane ticket off the islands.
This Waianae tent community is just one of many in this native town. Together they contain 1,000 to 4,000 people.
Some people here have jobs, but don't earn wages great enough to afford rent in a market that hasn't had so little available housing in decades.
Able to walk to class, kids here are lucky that they can lead typical lives and play sports while living outside.
Thirteen-year-old camp resident Maelia says, 'It's just camping. That's what we tell other kids at school.'
Maelia keeps a small offering here on the shore that she maintains and sets right before coming back to join our tour.
Together they manage to earn a bit of money and most importantly to them, they are together and not separated in shelters and subject to government bureaucracy.
Aside from donations the people here rely on the sea for much of what they eat. The tail of a large Marlin caught by friends hangs at the entrance to the family's camp
And a road sign serves as decoration beside the ubiquitous water bottles that residents haul in from the neighbouring marina.
Maelia attends school as well, but spends a lot of time making necklaces from shells that she sells to tourists.
Loke tells us that residents avoid this spot after dark. 'There are ghosts here,' she says. The Chinese mafia dumped bodies in the nearby Manoa Valley for years and this is rumoured to have been one of their favourite places for ditching a corpse.
If the government won't do enough to help native Hawaiians have homes, they at least take care of each other.
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