Waianae Shelter Is A Positive Step

Larry Price
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Wednesday - August 22, 2007
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What would cause people who are homeless to refuse to avail themselves of the beds and shelter offered to them by the state? These people have been living on Leeward coast beaches, braving the elements and inclement weather while trying to keep their families together. Yet, despite the presence of guaranteed food and shelter, people are still willing to remain on the beach.

It should be noted that the state’s new shelter in Waianae doesn’t only offer food and beds, there are expectations of people who use these services. Part of the mission is to help people become self-sufficient - “residents” must abide by the rules. For some of the homeless, though, the rules are too restrictive. Abiding by rules might seem too overwhelming. Or perhaps, they don’t feel they need to follow the rules of others.

One could search for psychological reasons to understand this phenomenon. An easy diagnosis could be an oppositional defiant disorder, whereby a person often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults’ request or rules routinely. But are the homeless really being oppositional or defiant?

It is more likely that those who reside on the beach have come to develop personal rules that govern their lives. There might even be a “culture” that has evolved from living on the beach. Think about how nice it could be to live on the beach, with very few directives to follow, save for respecting other peoples’ property. Who would-n’t want to live on the beach? Many people are willing to pay lots of money to build homes on beachfront property. Why would the homeless feel any differently?

All right, they don’t have “homes” on the beach, and they might not have the resources to enable them to feed and care for their families, but this might be a small price to pay for not having to follow the more stringent rules of society that come with being in the state shelters.

What’s the answer? If we really want the homeless off our beaches, what can be done to achieve this goal?

One simple solution would be to post times when the parks and beaches are open and closed to the public. The problem is the police would need to enforce these rules. That would get the homeless into the shelters, even if they really didn’t want to be there.

Is that a reasonable solution? Probably not, because it’s a jurisdictional problem. Some of the homeless are camping in city and county parks and others in state parks.

Furthermore, many of the homeless are not really homeless, they are individuals addicted to drugs or suffering with severe mental illness.

There is also a segment of the so-called “homeless” population who are just hobos. They may not suffer from any mental illness or drug addiction, they just don’t want anything less than total freedom to do anything they want, including choosing where they sleep and where they find their food.

One thing is obvious, there are many questions and very few appropriate answers about solutions for the homeless; however, what’s going on at the Waianae shelter is a positive step in the right direction, and hopefully the people who are operating the shelter don’t become disheartened by the negative publicity.

Hopefully the state and the city won’t be tempted to run “flop houses” or “soup kitchens” in Hawaii. Eventually, if the homeless situation is left to fester and become a political football, it will become a liability for our tourism industry - and no one wants that to happen.

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