Poverty on Oahu
Posted On July 31, 2017
Yesterday, I took my wife and daughter for a ride to the West side of Oahu. They hadn’t been there yet. We rode along the beautiful road which goes between the mountains and the sea in Nanikule, Wainae, Makaha, and the small communities in between. It’s been more than a decade since I’ve been there – it’s changed. The last time I was there, there were tent towns stretching along most of the coast – now the tent towns are interrupted by watered golf courses and Disney resorts. The poverty hasn’t gone away, but the gentrification is in full movement mode. My wife’s reaction was something like “It’s like a completely different nation. Low houses, no high rises, no Safeway, and no big tourist businesses.” And then as I pointed out the shanty’s and tent villages hidden behind the kiawe bushes, she started to feel the anger that our society lets so many slide by. The kdis playing in front of the scrap wood and tarp shelters, the adults peeking out of the shadows, waiting for the next sweep of the police or parks department to shove them to someplace else. It’s easy to pass the homeless and think ‘Oh, they must have drug or mental problems’ but there are families, seniors, people who simply cannot make it here. “The government should provide for them,” she said, and I agree. There are many programs which offer assistance, but none of this should be allowed – and then you see the huge gold courses, the giant touristic facilities, and the ever increasing tourist buses and rental cars…there is something seriously wrong. And then there are those who are on the edge of poverty – we passed an older couple over on the windward side of the island a few days ago – in my former hometown of Kailua – which has become so unaffordable that even the middle class cannot afford to live there – this couple was sitting by the side of the road in folding chairs holding a sign “We’re short on rent – even a little bit helps. We don’t want to be homeless” – and like nearly everyone else, I drove by reading the sign too late to stop and too busy trying to make a few dollars to give away a few dollars – but even though I drove away, that sign didn’t stay behind. There is something seriously wrong here. And on that note, I made another observation yesterday – it used to be that the homeless camps flew Hawaiian flags, the shacks, the tents, the enclosures – yesterday, on the drive up to Kaena Point on the west side – I didn’t see a single Hawaiian flag flying from the homeless camps nor from the weekend beach camps of residents – for some reason – that troubled me even more than the homelessness itself….