The Pacific Index

Homelessness in Hawaii: Out of sight, out of mind

Stuart Leijon

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Homelessness is a growing issue in states like Hawaii, but lawmakers are refusing to tackle the problem head on. Matthew Yasuoka found, in his presentation “Come to Hawaii (Unless You’re Homeless),” Hawaiian lawmakers would rather turn the homeless away, than help them find suitable housing.

Bill 42 commonly known as the “Sit-Lie Bill” prevents people from laying down, sleeping on the streets or on benches in designated areas throughout the Waikiki district.

Yasuoka suggested that policy- makers and merchants fear the presence of the homeless will ruin the $14 billion tourism industry in Hawaii. Bill 42 is their solution.

Large amounts of support for the bill came from hotels and consumer centers in Hawaii such as the Royal Hawaiian

Center shopping mall. Merchants fear that consumer spending will drop because the homeless population in Hawaii deters shoppers from spending time in the area.

Yasuoka also examined media framing of Hawaii and homelessness to determine what effect the media had on policy-making regarding the homeless.

His findings suggest that tourists don’t regard homelessness as a major deterrent to the enjoyment of their vacations, indicating political efforts to relocate the homeless start and end with merchants, hotels and the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Yasuoka also found that Hawaii is relatively welcoming to the homeless, citing the growing trend of “Volun- tourism,” in which tourists travel with the purpose of serving the destination community through acts of good will.

Yasuoka’s presentation finds that the current model for dealing with the homeless is to make them invisible rather than provide suitable housing.

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Homelessness in Hawaii: Out of sight, out of mind