The State of Homelessness in America 2014
State of Hawaii has highest rates of homelessness in the USA
A peace activist in Hawaii says new laws targeting the state's homeless will only make the situation worse in the future.
The laws prohibit homeless behavior on Oahu island such as sitting and sleeping on sidewalks along the popular Waikiki beach front.
The 2014 State of Homelessness in America report shows that the state of Hawaii has the highest levels of homelessness per capita in the united states with 465 homeless people per 100,000.
But a local peace activist with the Ho'opae Pono Peace Project, Laulani Teale, told Koroi Hawkins the situation on the ground is much worse.
LAULANI TEALE: As part of that we deal with the reality of our people which is, a lot of poverty a lot of houselessness - very few can afford to live in their own home land of Hawaii. And then we also have a lot of people without homes that have come from other places too and they're also being treated very badly by the government here.
KOROI HAWKINS: I understand that Hawaii has the highest rate of homelessness compared to population in all of the United States is that correct?
LT: Yes that is correct and the numbers don't even reflect the true situation because there are many who are not counted, there are many people who are sleeping in people's yards or in the forest, in trees, in other places where they are not even counted amongst the numbers so the situation is even worse than is recorded.
KH: This is very, like when you hear Hawaii people think, you know, holiday destination, amazing beaches, surf and party and all that and how come is this something that's grown or is it something that has always been this way? Why is it this way?
LT: Well basically the disenfranchisement and displacement of the people has been the price for all of that. For the luxury beaches, for the tourist attractions, for the, you know Disneyland playground, all of that. This is the price, is that, is the oppression of the people.
KH: And you mentioned that government is making things worse at the moment. What is happening?
LT: Well because the tourist industry and the real estate industry are very economically affluent. The government seeks to protect those things and so they don't want people lying on the sidewalks they don't want people, you know, making Hawaii look bad and so because of that they have come up with some really, really terrible laws that basically don't really help people but they kick them off. They have the authority to just take people's belongings, throw them into trash cans, in theory people can get them back but it is impossible in practical reality to do so. So they are just really torturing people and there's people are arrested or forced into really terrible conditions, very frequently.
KH: Are there no prospects, are there no jobs, is their a way out of this situation?
LT: Many of these people have jobs; in fact many of them have two or three jobs it is not uncommon for someone to be living on the street and working three jobs, the price of housing is so outrageous that people simply cannot afford to survive even when they are working very hard.
KH: That sounds awful, what is being done? What is the strategy for you and your organisation and for people trying to help change this?
LT: The strategy for many of us really is independence of Hawaii from the United States; that is our overall strategy that we have been working on for many many years and the department of interior meetings that happened here show how strong it is if every single meeting was packed with people saying we want independence. And we are very peaceful in our means to get it so it's taking a long time but this is something that we've been working on and have not given up on for over a hundred years now.
KH: And are you any closer to that goal? Is there been any progress made?
LT: Yes I would say that we are closer in that we are getting international recognition through the United Nations and by other countries and because what is happening in Hawaii does meet the legal definition of an occupied, we are an occupied nation and even the US can't deny that and even the state representatives acknowledge that. So it's just a matter of how we would do it. The occupation is internationally illegal and so it's just a how question. And we are joining in with many, many other Pacific nations that are gaining independence, you know, Tahiti is getting close; many have already gained independence many have already gained independence and if you look across the world, you know, I think people will see this is actually the trend.
KH: Is there any story that is happening right now in relation to the people that are living without homes that you would like to say?
LT: Well one thing that I think is very important is that what we are upholding here is Hawaii's oldest law it is known as the law of the splintered paddle and what that law says is that anyone has the right to lay down in peace, by the roadside or anywhere else without threat of harm and specifically from the government and I think that it is important for everyone to recognise that a government that causes fear of, within its people is not going to last. And that's what that law represents and what we are looking for is a higher standard of human rights for all people in which we can provide leadership to the pacific and the world.
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