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Why Hawaii Is the Best State to Be Homeless


Pente lived on a beach in Hawaii and is here to share his experience with homelessness in the Aloha State.

Learn why Hawaii is the best state for homelessness

Learn why Hawaii is the best state for homelessness

The Wandering Life in the Paradise of the Pacific

There was a period in my life when I suffered from serious depression and became unemployed and homeless. During this time, I traveled a lot and visited many states. Some states are terrible for being homeless, others much easier. However, one state was the clear winner for being homeless. Considering the state of our economy, I am hoping this information helps somebody out.

The clear winner for being homeless is the state of Hawaii, especially the large island. The advantages of being homeless in Hawaii include:

  • Warm weather year-round
  • Public restrooms and showers and many beach locations
  • Advocates for the homeless provide some services in Hilo and Kona
  • Highest amount of food stamps (higher food costs in Hawaii)
  • Free state-paid medical care, including free dental care
  • Friendly population
  • Free buses—although they are infrequently scheduled
  • Many backpackers to blend in with
  • Low unemployment and lots of jobs
  • Easiest state to get disability if you are disabled
  • A lot of people pick up hitchhikers
  • Longest life expectancy in the U.S.
  • The Big Island of Hawaii is marijuana-friendly, but meth users can look forward to a possible mandatory life sentence. Avoid Hawaii if you are into hard drugs—we don't want you!

If you are looking to rebuild your life, I would suggest Kona on the Big Island. This is a fairly rich retirement community without enough local workers for the senior population. The first day when I arrived by bus, I saw a job application in a store window. When I went to apply, I was hired on the spot (the job required a driver's license which I owned). I later applied to a restaurant for a part-time job in the evenings. I was also hired on the spot. Later, I learned that this was not some random luck. Employers in this area are always desperate for workers.

Rent is exorbitant in the Kona area and a studio apartment will cost you around $1,500 per month. Also, there is no regular bus service to or from Hilo. This means that many of the local workers sleep or live in tents down at the beach.

Beach Life

There are several beaches in Kona. Avoid the one to the south of Kona and the area around downtown Kona. Most of the homeless people at these two beaches are alcoholics and drug addicts. You will see bottles and other trash along these beaches.

Instead, head north past the park till you reach the old airport park. There is a strip of sand behind the old runway next to the ocean. This is a long enough walk to discourage most of the addicts and troublemakers. Most of the people who camp here are hard workers and just can't afford a place to live. You will not see any trash along this beach, and be sure not to leave any. You probably won't notice anybody, but there are other people that sleep down there, and they have formed a loose-knit community.

If you cause problems, they will often engage in group justice to run you out. On the other hand, if you are clean and civilized, they will leave you alone. I slept down there for about two weeks before I was even aware of them. I lived there for over three months with no problems.

Theoretically, there is a $100 fine if you are caught camping on the beaches in Hawaii. I have never seen or heard of anyone getting a fine, though. An employer told me that the local business community discouraged the police department from giving tickets in that area in order to try to attract more workers. I often saw police down at the park, and they were always friendly to everybody. That being said, I also noticed that all tents and bedding were gone by sunrise (about 6 A.M.), and I always had my tent packed and hidden by then.

The old airport building has a couple of restrooms (rarely cleaned). There is also a shower nozzle on the building. Later, I discovered a public swimming pool at the SE end of the park on the way back to Kona. This is a very clean (chlorinated pools) and well-managed facility. Entry is free to the public, and they have hot showers. You will usually see a half dozen people doing exercise laps in the early morning.

Every day when I woke up, I would always say to myself, "Wow, what a great day, I just woke up in paradise!" This may sound a bit silly, but there is a certain power in being grateful for what we have. I credit this little exercise every morning to improving my mental health and even my blood pressure.

When you live in paradise, who cares if you are homeless?

Map shows Kailua Kona on the west side of island. Old airport is a park now. There is a new modern international airport to the north.

Map shows Kailua Kona on the west side of island. Old airport is a park now. There is a new modern international airport to the north.

Homeless in Honolulu

Although I feel the Big Island is the best island for being homeless in Hawaii, it is not the only choice. Honolulu has the Sumner Homeless Men's Shelter, which is supported by $2 million in tax dollars per year. You can stay there for $3 per night and get three free meals a day if you want. There are several homeless areas (tent cities) on this same island (Oahu). There are over 5,000 homeless people on Oahu, and a great number of them are mentally ill. Crime and harassment from the police are much more common on this island.

Here are some links for homeless life on the island of Oahu, Hawaii:

Homeless in Hawaii - NPR Article
Homeless in Hawaii - USA Today

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


Donna Linden on October 19, 2013:

Even though I'm late to this hub, I was so moved by it's content, comments, and replies, that I just had to add how amazing it was to have my google search for something else lead me to this incredible article! Thanx Pente for your honesty and candidness! I now have a better sense of what to do with the next chapter in my life.

mharp on November 05, 2012:

Well, I was all set to visit Hawaii untl that comment about the 4.5 inch cockroaches

Living in my car from Cincinnati on August 11, 2012:

Great Hub! Im currently homeless and living in my car in CIncinnati, Ohio the summers here ant bad and I joined a community gym that charges $20 for a 3 month membership that have showers which is huge when your homeless.

I stayed in Key West for a few weeks once and it used to be a great place to be homeless but recently they have really cracked down on the homeless population.

Naima Cakirlar from Islip, New York on February 19, 2012:

hello, I am a mother of ten children. my oldest child is 19 years old and my baby is 2 years old. I am married. Currently seeking a divorce. My husband is the stole financial supporter in our household. We are just making it. I am from New York State. We pay very high property taxes, plus the house mortgage. If I move forward with the divorce my husband as told me that he will go back to Turkey and not pay a cent in child support. He will not pay the house mortgage nor aid me and my children in anyway. my oldest daughter is currently attend Albany college of pharmacy. If I stay here my depression will only get worst. I was planning to be homeless I have eight smaller children who are school aged. I was thinking about flying to Hawaii first while I still have the capital. I really do not know what to do? I am afraid of people and larges places. I am very limited as far as work due to the amount of children I have. I had started a finanical consultant business and i am still going thought the licensing process.if any one as and ideas please let me know? naimacakirlar@hotmail.com

jakesully from tijuana, mexico on December 26, 2011:

Great hub. I just spent the summer homeless in Yosemite, and there's ton of facilities there. Next stop, Hawaii!

Pente (author) from Planet Earth on July 30, 2011:

@BetteMachete: I agree with you that having public showers available is one of the great things about Hawaii. In other states I always had to resort to sponge bathing. Ugh, what a horrible memory.

@Pamela: So where would you live if you were homeless? Many homeless have some income, just not enough to get a place to live. I would rather live in the tropics than freeze to death in New York in the winter. As for insects, you can buy a small camping tent for less than a hundred dollars. I kept mine in a small black bag that was easy to hide during the day.

As for those with psychological problems, homelessness is another symptom of their mental illness. Solutions are difficult. My article is directed more towards those who are generally self-sufficient and willing to work to improve their life, but have lost their job and home and basically restarting from scratch.

I envy you for living on Maui, I plan to go hiking there sometime in the next year or two. Aloha.

Pamela Dapples from Arizona now on July 26, 2011:

I don't know any homeless people who have the luxury of a computer or even a few dollars to sit at the local internet cafes, but I hope there are some. You've given some good information here.

The numbers of homeless on Maui are growing. Many people come ill-equipped psychologically to deal with the large, large insects here that inhabit the forests or sleeping areas. There are cane spiders, 4.5 inch long cockroaches and 10 to 11 inch long centipedes. If I was homeless, I would not choose the tropics. There are however a couple more non-profits set up now on Maui to provide 20 or 30 more beds at night. Still, it's nowhere near enough. Hundreds more beds are needed plus these men and women, old and young, need jobs and hope.

BetteMachete on July 26, 2011:

I have been through this experience, and it is so much harder in areas that do not have public showers. That may sound trivial but it really makes the difference when you are homeless.

Pente (author) from Planet Earth on February 18, 2011:

@Fey Paxton: I know several people who have given it all up to move to Hawaii. About half of them find paradise, the other half seem to bring their inner demons with them.

@Stump Parrish: My crystal ball says you live in Conestee, so you need to take the conehead freeway to Hawaii. You will find the GPS coordinates on the next abandoned lottery ticket you run across on a Wednesday. Ignore it though, if you saw a white cat earlier in the day. Yes, you can have a viking style pyre in Hawaii, but the law requires you to light the fire yourself. Alternatively, you can save money by jumping into an active volcano. It is all the rage these days. As for responsibility, most people in Hawaii have the necessary strength to avoid it. Aloha.

Stump Parrish from Don't have a clue, I'm lost. on February 18, 2011:

Most of what you described was common place on the big island of America in the 70's. I am trying to put together a motorcycle cmping trip thru all 50 states. Please advise me on the best route to ride my motorcycle to Hawaii. Gps coordinates would be appreciated. Can I be disposed of with a viking style pyre in hawaii like I can in colorado?

I am looking for a good place to die and some interesting people to hang with until that time comes. Responsibility is for those too weak to avoid it.

Fay Paxton on February 18, 2011:

Thank you for this well-written, informative post. You almost make me want to give it all up and move to Hawaii.

Pente (author) from Planet Earth on December 31, 2010:

I have been homeless in California too. It is not a bad place. Or should that be -> It was not a bad place. California is currently going through several crises. Regardless, I still found it to be a distant second to Hawaii.

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on December 30, 2010:

Pente-Welcome to Hubpages. Thank you for your candid profile. I loved this hub for several reasons. First, it is well written. Second, I've often thought of this exact topic-what state would I choose if I were homeless? I always figured California was the 'best' place. Never considered Hawaii. Third, a dear friend of mine was homeless, (in CA) for several months, living out of his car so this hub resonates with me.

Ipeoney from USA on December 23, 2010:

This is a good Hub, just in case I travel to Hawaii.

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