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What To Do For the Homeless in Hawaii
Grey Skies Through the Homeless Person's Eyes
Looking for Hope for the Homeless
Only a couple of years ago, before the financial crisis hit the nation, I believed there was a misconception about the homeless. In some areas of the United States, there still is this misconception: Homeless people don't want to work. That's why they are not working. They just don't want to; hence they are homeless. This is the narrow way of thinking some people have on the subject.
I have thought about this stereotyping dilemma for some time. I've written to the editor of the Maui News with some ideas and I hoped a few social workers on the island would chime in with suggestions, but there were no responses to my letter. Most of the letters to the editor in those months involved the Furlough Fridays the Governor of Hawaii had imposed on our school children. People were up in arms that school children were going to miss many Fridays so that the state government could balance their budget a little better. But what about the homeless children who live on the beach? Isn't that a bigger problem?
And what about the homeless veterans? I know several veterans who live in nice houses on our street. Each own a fancy truck and a big bike. I'm happy for them. I know of a few other veterans who live down the hill in the forest on the left side of the road. I have only spoken with them a few minutes each time we've seen each other. They were entering the forest or exiting the forest when I have been putting water down for the junglefowl near the edge of the roadway. These men are Vietnam veterans. Yes, they have alcohol and drug dependency problems, but that is not surprising considering the lack of support they have received since returning from their tours of duty.
There is a new generation of homeless, too. Many of the homeless men and women I have spoken to during the last year are in their early twenties. My first thought when I meet a young homeless person is, "Where is their mother?" But that's an emotional reaction. When I have thought about the situation analytically, I have thought how difficult, how almost impossible, it is for a homeless person to line up a job interview and get himself or herself there, looking presentable. It takes more faith than 99.9% of working people can muster -- if they were in the same situation, I would bet -- except I'm not a betting person.
I’m talking about the every day kind of faith which a person requires to get up in the morning from a nice, clean bed; face the day, wash one’s face, eat breakfast and go to a workplace which might not ignite their interests, but provides a wage or salary. All of that is hard enough even for those of us who have a roof over our heads at night, warm water when we want to bath, and food in our refrigerator.
Homeless People Face Challenges You or I Might Not Surmount
Homeless people have to get a resume prepared without owning a typewriter or computer to do so. They do not have cell phones so they cannot put a phone number on the resume – if they manage to get a resume prepared by someone else. They don't have a lot of money to pay someone to prepare a resume for them. They need to rely on the kindness of others and that takes kindness and patience on their part. How often do they feel like just giving up and not hoping for kindnesses any longer?
Another big challenge for them daily or at least a few times a weeks is they need to get themselves to a public bathing area. This is especially so when they hope to attend a job interview.
I’ve known some homeless people who wash their clothes and their body under the shower at the same time -- at the beach showers. Initially, when they arrived homeless at the beach, they had a small suitcase or briefcase and extra clothes. Soon they had only the clothes on their backs.
Many homeless people want to work. They dream of being self-sufficient again. But they cannot see how to attain their goal. They are surrounded by other people who are in the same circumstances. Their hope has dissipated. After weeks and then months pass, each homeless person handles life in whatever way they can, trying to stave off despair. For example, here in Hawaii the climate is agreeable, but the centipedes are huge. How can any of us know how we personally would handle sleeping night after night on the dirt with huge bugs crawling over us? In these peoples' attempts to handle life, many of them become addicted to drugs.
What if a whole network of social agencies worked together? They could solve some of the problems I have listed. Social workers could fan out every morning at the parks and the beach, find homeless people who are coherent and who want help. Those homeless persons could be asked to take part in an agenda to get their lives back on track. With hope restored to them and a helping hand guiding them into drug rehabilitation and shelters, most homeless people would strive towards getting a job.
Given half a chance, that's what would happen. Yes, sir.
I wish I could look through those rose-colored glasses I used to wear when I really hoped and believed all of this. This past year, I've lost my glasses. These days I hardly know what to say to a homeless person. I have no hope to offer them and I see no long-term solutions. I'm honing my listening skills, though. Some homeless persons have a lot to say. Every one of them is a character -- unique -- just like you or me. Still, there must be somebody among the population who can say, "I know what we can do for the homeless in Hawaii. Listen, I have a solution."
Hey! They probably have my glasses!
Video on Homeless People of Hawaii
© 2010 Pamela Kinnaird W