Homelessness brings shame on all of Hawaii
Governor Lingle has promised that the state will tackle Leeward Oahu's homeless problem.
GOVERNOR Lingle's candid acknowledgment
that she is ashamed that Hawaii's homeless problem no longer can be pushed into the shadows illustrates her determination to find solutions.
Her compassion and resolve stand in contrast to Mayor Hannemann's indifference to a disorder that afflicts the island for which he is chiefly responsible.
If nothing else, the mayor should postpone his clean-up projects at the beaches and parks on the Leeward Coast, as Lingle has requested. That will give the governor and the coalition she is gathering the time to put together plans to help the estimated thousands of people who likely will be displaced -- just as hundreds were when the city shut down Ala Moana Beach Park for repairs earlier this year.
Meanwhile, residents who complain that people living at the parks are preventing them from enjoying the facilities should be patient. Finding ways to solve the problem will be as difficult and as diverse as the reasons for homelessness. In addition, people should be open to solutions even if they demand some sacrifices.
The governor's shame should fall on each of us. As a community, we have failed to recognize that whenever a person is left behind, society suffers collectively.
This is evident by the countless tents that cover Oahu's parks and shorelines, by the shanties cobbled together with cast-offs and cardboard under freeway ramps, by the tarps furtively draped over playground equipment as shelter for a few hours at night.
Some who live in public spaces do so because of mental illnesses that prevent employment and self-sufficiency. Other choose nomadic lives, flouting convention. But the majority do so because they cannot afford housing in a state where rents are out of reach even for people who have jobs and where buying a house is unimaginable.
Everyone knows Hawaii desperately needs homes that people on the lower end of the economic scale can afford. For all the years the issue has been discussed and studied, answers have remained elusive.
Government dictates that new housing developments include a small percentage of "affordable" homes, but prices for those units still exceed the paychecks of many families and individuals.
The governor has outlined a program that moves them from shelters to transitional centers for employment aid and medical treatment, then to rental housing. She has asked that all segments of the community -- the military, businesses, churches and nonprofit groups -- pitch in. She also has asked for donations and volunteers.
Not all people are expected to step up, but if some can't or won't help, they can stand on the sidelines and not get in the way.