There are factors in Honolulu, Hawaii that made living on the street easy. It’s easy to be poor, as long as you don’t want for more. The ease of poverty here is both a good news, bad news story.
All my needs and some of my wants…
When I was in my 20’s I was off track and not pursuing career goals. I was fascinated by street life, especially since Honolulu did not have the gangs and gun violence of the mainland. (Honolulu was not lacking in interpersonal theft and domestic violence so rampant it was a way of life to “get dirty lickins” from family members, especially intimate partners. In fact, punches were a hallmark of a truly close relationship bc men only hit the ones they loved, a reality that caused some local women to doubt a man’s commitment if he did not strike her. But I digress.) It was comparatively easy to live on the streets for several reasons. It never gets cold. I visited Alaska one summer and saw posted reminders everywhere that winter was on the way. In Hawaii there’s no weather related urgency whi h might explain the laid back attitude here. One can live on the street forever and Mother Nature won’t strike a person down. Moreover, I hate to say it, but people who say harm redu tion programs like needle exchange or free meals contribute to complacency are partly right. Without these services people would do without or steal to meet their needs, but the one positive aspect of usi g pressure to for e people to act correctly on their own behalfs is absent. Yes, I am aware that tough love usually doesn’t work and society ends up with more disease and crime, but truth be told, no one has found the solution to addiction and a way to stop desperate crimes committed by people caught in its grip. But if someone could’ve been motivated to get clean by the lack of life sustaining free services, that someone does not receive the motivation in Honolulu. Another condition that made it easy to pursue a life on the streets of downtown Honolulu was the readily available information about the underground economy and the ease of access to this economy. For a few dollars someone picked at random from the street will introduce a stranger to the nearby Chinatown merchants who will trade cash for your foodstamps for 50 cents on the dollar. People will point a questioning female towards the streets where guys with money will stop their cars and pick up a female with the intention of spending some time. And let’s not forget jow easy it is to get foodstamps. If you have no income the Foodstamp card or EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card is yours. To give a balanced view, it’s so ridiculously expensive in Hawaii that according to the program reps that give away the free government phone, 98% of the local population is on some form of government assistance. Unlike the mainland where poor is a codeword in the media for “black,” theres no shame in getting housing assistance or foodstamps. And there are no geographically isolated ghettos. Instead, condos are neighbors with public housing structures and withouth segregation, shame is lost but so is motivation. (At the time of this writing, July 11, 2022, Safeway is selling a gallon of milk for about $7.59 and gas is about $5.40/gallon. It’strue!) Only the rich can be comfortable housed here where houses are all over $1 million and the wealthy need not worry about losing their rental unit ($1500/1 bedroom in Honolulu), if they’re down two or three paychecks. I conclude by saying it’s easy to be poor and stay poor in Honolulu, where people can remain on drugs without worrying their missing their chance for upward mobility. Luckily, there’s scant hope for moving on up (sarcasm). Upward mobility is so far out of reach people don’t strive with the same intensity as they do in places where there’s a big difference between working and getting welfare. In an upcoming post I will explain why I think there may be a grand scheme to keep people down through policies.
As for now I sign off with this realization: when I did not work I pursued and received free medical, food, clothes, and shelter through the kindness of strangers. Now I have a job and my own place (subsidized) and a car bc a friend helped with the down payment. Theifestyle is not as different as I wish but hey, I might get a raise!