Encountering homeless individuals while going to class or getting groceries is not a rare occurrence here in Honolulu, Hawaii. In fact, it would be rarer to experience the latter. I have personally never left the bubble of campus and not had a notable encounter with at least one homeless person during that given trip.
This poses the question: What is the root of all this homelessness? How can extravagant luxury resorts be paved all down the street in Waikiki, but a 5-minute walk in the opposite direction places you in the middle of a massive homeless tent community?
The problem is compounded by a multitude of variables. Arguably the most significant one being the availability of affordable housing. Affordable housing is not made a priority here, especially not when commercial enterprises have the means and motive to outbid any welfare or non-profit organization when it comes to property. The economic incentive from the tourism industry coupled with the greed of wealthy developers lays out an environment where the development of a shopping mall will always be placed higher than the needs of the homeless. Helping those in need is simply not as lucrative. This issue is not exclusive to Hawaii, as every major city with a high cost of living faces its fair share of housing issues as well as a bulk of their population living below the poverty line.
More factors are the stigmas surrounding mental health and drug abuse. Whether conscious or not, I think the assumption of a person strung out on drugs, and a homeless person goes hand in hand. The problem is when someone's initial reaction to this issue is to ignore it rather than the desire to offer resources in order to help them. Some of the individuals who make this thoughtless decision are the ones holding powerful roles in the government today. How can a problem be resolved if no one who has the means to solve it actually cares?
"A recent report on the Hawaii State Hospital, the only publicly-funded psychiatric hospital in the state, revealed fundamental shortcomings ranging from nepotism among certain high-ranking staffers to inadequate security measures for restraining violent patients. (Koenig)"
Not only are the resources for help limited, but they're also at over-capacity and riddled with corruption as well. How is this a fair deal? The homeless population is not even given a fighting chance under these circumstances.
The extremities of the situation are also worsened every time there is a dip in the economy, let alone a whole recession. There is no single clear solution. But the government does sew the strings on this web of an issue. A lower personal income tax, more mental health services, and a higher importance placed on welfare funding are all so critical. These are all components of an environment that would alleviate some of the burdens on the homeless community.
On the bright side, these are all pillars of Biden's campaign too. Obviously this will not eradicate the problem entirely, but it is a step closer than where we are now.
Please vote this November!