Wednesday, February 16, 2022
#47 / Homeless In Hawaii
Not that long ago, I heard from a friend traveling in Hawaii. The message I received was this: "It is sad in the midst of such beauty there are so many homeless. They gather on the beach right in front of our hotel."
You don't need to leave home to find the homeless.
My hometown, Santa Cruz, California, is also known for its beauty and its beaches, and increasingly, I think, Santa Cruz is known for its homeless population, too:
Virtually every city of any size, in California, has scenes like that one, above, with modifications related to the specifics of the community pictured. And of course, I could say the same of every city of any size in the United States of America. This is not a phenomenon restricted to coastal tourist towns.
It should be obvious, I think, that the economic, social, and health crisis that is exemplified by the stubborn persistence of homelessness cannot be eliminated without a decision by all of us, collectively, that no one of us, anywhere, will be forced by her or his individual circumstances to live on riverbanks, or beaches, or on the streets of our cities, on the sidewalks, or in the gutters.
Protests, perhaps? What about protests against homelessness? In my community, it is not uncommon to hear protests against homeless persons, who have greatly inconvenienced those who are not homeless by their unwelcome presence in our public spaces. But are the homeless people the problem, or are we the problem?
If we see our society as nothing more than a collection of individuals, then it is understandable why we might feel justified in being irritated - or even outraged - by those individuals whose occupation of our beautiful beaches, or grimy streets, so thoroughly upsets and repulses us.
But we are not, actually, just a collection of individuals. We are "in this together," each one of us tied, inextricably, to everyone else. Our protest about the outrageous and intolerable conditions that upset us must be directed to ourselves, collectively. Let's stop trying to protest "the homeless." Let's start addressing our own lack of compassion and concern, and make clear that it is unacceptable that we should ever allow another person to be cast adrift and stranded on beaches, riverbanks, or city streets.
If we are, in fact, a "collective," then we must mobilize our collective resources to eliminate conditions that we find intolerable. Not throw a little money at those conditions. Eliminate them!
Billionaires are buying whole islands in Hawaii. Billionaires are asserting a private right to conquer space and build cities on Mars, where homeless persons won't be able to exist.
Let us direct our protests at those who are responsible, and do something about it. And I don't mean the billionaires, either. I mean all of us! Modern Monetary Theory says that we can afford anything that we can actually do.
We can, actually, provide a place, a space, a home for every person in this incredibly rich country we call our own.
So let's do it!
(1) - https://www.resortsandlodges.com/lodging/usa/hawaii/oahu/pacific-beach-hotel.html
(2) - Gary A. Patton, personal photograph