Tonight, I was riding my bike on Kona Street, after a few drinks at Jazz Minds. I got to the intersection of Atkinson and Kona and I saw on the little concrete island a small camp that had been set-up by a homeless woman who camps there for the evening almost every night.
There were a few belongings, including a small children's bicycle I suppose that she used to carry her stuff around. I didn't see the woman, though. Then, I turned and saw her bedded-down for the night under the shelter of an awning of one of the small businesses nearby. I guess she moved from the island to the sidewalk when the rain started.
I have ridden past the Atkinson/Kona intersection hundreds of times and this woman has only begun camping there in the past few months.
A week ago, as I rode past Puuhale Elementary, I noticed a homeless man camped next to the school's fence, along the dirt driveway. I used to go to that shool.
There was a time, not long ago, where homeless people used to camp in places removed from the general public view as much as possible. If you wanted to find them, you needed to go to a park or to the beach. usually, it was someplace where they could get lost in a crowd of other homeless people and you would be unable to single them out. Those days are over.
I'm seeing homeless people camped-out in very public places: in front of Puuhale Elementary, at the intersection of Kona and Atkinson as well as the intersection of Kapiolani and Atkinson. You're seeing them camped in ones and twos, instead of in larger groups, no doubt forced there by the evictions from state and city parks.
We're seeing them throwing aside all thoughts of trying to hide themselves from public view, giving-up all sense of being embarrassed by their homelessness and simply camping where ever they can that no one else has staked a claim to previously. It's no longer a matter of trying to be inconspicuous, but of simple survival.
Without a real solution, without giving them a place where they could stay and not be molested by police, they will find other places not currently in use by other homeless people. The undersides of bridges are spoken-for, as are parks and beaches. The government has chased and hounded them from one place to another and they are left with no choice but to camp out in the open where they can easily be seen.
We are entering a dangerous phase in the homelessness crisis, where people are being backed into a corner with no place to go but down. Humans are still part of the Animal Kingdom and no animal is more dangerous than when it has been backed into a corner with no choice but to fight or die.
With a lot of people thinking that the solution to homelessness is simply for homeless people to go out and get a job when even people who are not homeless are having a hard time finding even a part-time job, shows the general lack of concern too many of us have.
The homelessness issue has gone beyond being a problem or an annoyance. It has become a crisis that is becoming more difficult to ignore and evidence of it is in every neighborhood and on every street and park.
I know what could stop the evictions and I know it will never happen. Whenever there is an eviction of homeless people from a beach or park, if there was a corresponding massive protest outside the State Capitol or City Hall and thousands of phone calls, faxes and emails coming to their offices without ceasing, politicians would no longer be able to simply sign-off on an eviction without realizing that there would be a massive protest immediately thereafter in retaliation. Elected officials know that while many people say they care about the homeless, they don't care enough to make a phone call, let alone carry a sign on a picket line.
So, we'll hear a lot about "those poor houseless people" living on the beach and we'll see their little campsites as well as news stories informing the people that yet another homeless campsite has been broken-up and the homeless people have scattered to the Four Winds.
But, we're not likely to see real solutions any time soon.
Duane D. Browning