THE OTHER SIDE OF PARADISE: Inside Hawaii's Giant Homeless Community [PHOTOS]

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.

More than 700,000 people visited Hawaii in June 2013 and spent $US1.3 billion in one month alone.

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.

But Oahu has a side most tourists never see.

Just two miles from this plush Oahu country club and world-class golfing ...

... spread along the beach …

... in the largely native town of Waianae …

… is the single largest homeless encampment in the United States.

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.

The islands are their home whether they have a house or not.

The homeless in camp range in age from the very young ...

... to the not so young.

Kama, on the right, arranged a tour of the camp with three-year tent city resident Loke.

Loke spoke about life on the streets as she led us past the marina ...

... across this parking lot …

… down this trail …

… and into a world most visitors to Hawaii have no idea exists.

Hawaii has the third-largest homeless population per capita in the country.

This Waianae tent community is just one of many in this native town. Together they contain 1,000 to 4,000 people.

Many of them are children.

Loke says nine kids live in this tent with their parents.

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.

A school backs up to the camp.

The Hawaii Medical Journal estimates there are up to 700 kids in Waianae's tent cities.

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.

She lives in this camp with her mother and three-year-old brother, Christian ...

... and her grandfather.

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

A shark-tooth necklace hangs on a nearby tree for good luck.

And a road sign serves as decoration beside the ubiquitous water bottles that residents haul in from the neighbouring marina.

Maelia's camp is just behind this bus stop.

The 13-year-old explains that she helps some of the younger kids to and from school.

Maelia attends school as well, but spends a lot of time making necklaces from shells that she sells to tourists.

Maelia worries about her brother and what life will be like for him if she were to ever leave.

This is the only childhood Christian has ever known.

But camp life can be dangerous, especially for young kids.

Not everyone is as friendly or social as her family is.

Drug and alcohol use is not uncommon.

Camp life is not without an ominous tone and the land is said to have a dark history.

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.

Dark history aside, there is no place else the native Hawaiians in Waianae would rather be.

There is a sense of place here not found in many other tent communities.

A sense of optimism if not a bit of hope.

All the free one-way tickets to the continental U.S. won't mean a thing to the people here.

If the government won't do enough to help native Hawaiians have homes, they at least take care of each other.

They'll look out for each other's kids.

End their days together, and nurse a bit of hope for tomorrow.

That's life in one tent city in Hawaii ...

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