Despite what you see, experts say the number of homeless people in Hawaii is decreasing, but the way those on the streets choose to live is getting more elaborate and dangerous, even underground.
A man was recently removed from living in a hole beneath the Makiki Post Office along Lunalilo Street.
A spokesperson for the United States Postal Service confirmed that the man had been living in the underground trench.
No one knows how long he had been living there, but the postal service said homeless camps are constantly popping up around the Makiki Post Office.
Less than two miles away, on the other side of H-1, underneath the McCully Street overpass, there is another camp.
It’s much more elaborate.
It looks like a living room. There’s a couch, a coffee table, television, a rug and other household items.
Next to that, there is, what looks like a mini kitchen set up with a microwave, blender, small grill, toaster and pots and pans.
Residents said an old Japanese man stays there, and they are concerned.
Myrna Ballesteros’ mother lives near the underpass. She says she has seen people camp there before but this is different.
“I mean homeless comes in but then they stay there but not like this,” Ballesteros said. She pointed at the encampment, “terrible, it’s bad. It’s bad for the neighbors. Scary,”
Kimo Carvalho, spokesperson for the Institute for Human Services, said these elaborate camps are a coping mechanism.
“A lot of our homeless clients they are survivors. They really have experienced a lot of trauma and they’re trying to cope with it as best they can and actually live on the streets,” Carvalho said.
Homeless individuals and camps can be seen in almost every city on Oahu.
“For about the last five years, Hawaii did have the highest homeless per capita than any state in the country,” according to Carvalho.
“But for the last year or so we’ve really been making a lot of progress. We saw a 19 percent decrease in homeless families and a 12 percent decrease in unsheltered homeless individuals across the state.”
Still, the elaborate encampments and sites dotting Hawaii roadways and beaches are a stark reminder that more needs to be done.
“I think its very much a balance between compassion and promoting personal responsibility. We definitely want to take the compassionate approach and offer services, but often times homeless individuals don’t accept services right away,” Carvalho said.
Carvalho encourages people to contact the Institute for Human Services if they see homeless that they think need help.
“When they provide us with information such as where they’re located, where they’re frequenting, what they look like, giving us a description so that we can actually go out there find them, respond to them, see if they need help, see if they will accept services and actually offer them some kind of support,” Carvalho said.
“We believe that the streets living in that type of environment is not healthy for both the community and themselves and really having a home that they can call their own and take care of and really be stable and healthy that really allows them to generate a good quality of life and become contributing members of our community.”