A hundred years ago, “The need of a home for small children was emphasized yesterday as never before. Early in the day Sheriff Iaukea was notified that there were four youngsters down in the John block in Kaka‘ako who had no one to look out for them.”
“Investigation showed that the father had gone to San Francisco several months ago and had not been heard from. The mother, who has had a struggle to make both ends meet, is now in the hospital seriously ill.”
“Since Saturday these little ones have been alone and their condition was pitiable when the police took them to the station-house.”
“The Sheriff then made enquiries about the town, trying to find a place where they could be taken in. The Salvation Army Home was crowded, but after a consultation with the matron it was decided that the home would take them temporarily.”
“The eldest child, Manuel Delgado, a bright boy of ten years, had done his little best to take care of Puration, a girl of six; little Censio, aged four, and the wee little baby, Anita, aged seventeen months …”
“… but he looked very much relieved when the motherly matron of the Salvation Army Home gathered them all in and started for the home in a carriage.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, May 26, 1908)
Today, at all levels of government, homelessness (houselessness) remains an issue.
I have been fortunate to work in the private sector for most of my career, but I also worked in senior administrative positions in County and State government (and worked closely with our federal partners).
When I worked with the County, a homeless service provider helped me better understand the homeless situation.
She noted there are generally three types of homeless – the Have Nots, the Can Nots and the Will Nots.
She didn’t mean these references to be derogatory descriptors, rather a way to better understand the diversity and complexity of the problem.
The people without the financial means (Have Nots) or with some kind of disability (mental or physical) (Can Nots) are generally the ones who eventually seek and benefit from services provided by the many service providers across the State.
Regrettably, it is the Will Nots, those that can but don’t seek help, that sometimes get the limelight and many times shed a bad light on the rest.
Some refuse to enter a shelter because they aren’t willing to follow the rules, have alcohol/drug dependency or simply would rather live on the beach.
An unfortunate stigma is cast over all, because of the actions of a few.
Another component of homelessness are the Hidden Homeless (the ones, night by night, that are staying at someone else’s house – rotating between others, sleeping on a couch with family or friends).
Likewise, there are many At Risk families, who have limited savings (no more than 3-months savings), where some kind of event (loss of job, accident, illness, etc) could put them on the streets.
When we read about the ‘Homeless’, or related statistics, we tend to hear more about the Will Nots; the latter two, Hidden Homeless and At Risk, are typically not included in the statistics.
I believe the real homeless numbers are significantly higher than present County and State administrations are willing to admit, or report.
As an example, when I was Deputy Managing Director of Hawai‘i County, the estimate was that 700- people were homeless – however, the estimated Hidden Homeless was 10,000 and 24,300-people were considered At Risk.
When speaking of the homeless, I believe we need to be more open and honest with ourselves and others.
Hawai‘i has many in need. I appreciate the good work of the many homeless service providers; they are an important and special group of folks.