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Why Hawaii Is the Best State to Be Homeless

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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.

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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.

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