Youth Homelessness in Hawaii Essay

Homelessness is an issue that has adversely affected almost all states in The United States today. The issue can be approached from various angles considering the farfetched manner in which it stretches. This paper has addressed homelessness amongst the youth in Hawaii, from various angles. The paper starts with an introduction to the issue, then looking down the historical perspective of homelessness in the United States. This is then followed by a narrowed down approach to homelessness among youths in Hawaii. The causes and the impacts as well as the demographics of the issue have been discussed. The paper ends with an insight into the social manner in which this issue can be approached. In this regard, the arenas of social policies have been visited, that is macro, mezzo and micro methods into intervening homelessness.


According to the United Nations and the Conference for European Statisticians (CES) (2009), homelessness can be categorized broadly into two categories;

Primary homelessness; this is also referred to as rooflessness. This refers to the group of people who live in the streets without any shelter that would qualify for a living quarter (United Nations, 2009).

Secondary homelessness; these are people who have no usual residence are usually hopping between various types of accommodation that would cater for them such as homeless institutions. The category also includes those who are in various private aboard but cannot quote a usual address during census (United Nations, 2009).

Homelessness, can thus, according to the above two approaches, be defined as the condition of lacking a regular dwelling. Legal definitions of this term are very broad and vary from country to country. Various conditions lead to homelessness with the condition proliferating in the mid 80s due to strenuous economic conditions. Most countries, however, have put in place various measures to cater for the homeless. This is mainly and in form of provision of basic life commodities as food, clothing and shelter. This is done by community-based organizations through volunteers or through government agencies.

According to Basuk & Rosenberg (1988), homelessness was a prevalent issue in The United States in the 80s. In their article, they acknowledged presence of about a third of the homeless living in America. Despite these alarming figures, little was known in terms of the causes of the situation, consequences, and the antecedents of the problem. According to research, there are so many conditions being faced by the homeless that are still unmet.

This paper focuses on homelessness in Hawaii. The paper will focus on the effects of the situation, demographics, economic trends, effects on families, and other related effects, and the social concern at various levels.

Homelessness in Hawaii

There has been a large increase in the number of homeless youth in Hawaii. The issue has trickled to Honolulu, a major city in tourism. The increase in the number of homeless people in Hawaii has led to a major outcry from concerned groups such as the church, public service, leaders of the community and the general public. Incidentally, the issue of homeless people in Hawaii is slowly becoming a public issue considering the high rates of publicity that its facing.

Such continual cycles of homelessness within the youth in Hawaii is leading to deteriorating behaviors and a rise in crimes. It is a behavior that inflicts on youth in such a manner that one may find some running away from their homes due to the various problems. There are more detrimental effects of homelessness to the community such as increase in insecurity, and poor health and sanitation. It is a common factor to see homeless youth living in sewer lines (Kidd, 2006).

Social personnel have the liability of abating this situation through looking into various solutions such as safe housing, access to health care, and maybe try to unite some of the homeless with their families, where possible. Education issues should also be addressed.

In Hawaii, homelessness is an issue that affects so many factors in the society, that is, the government, businesses, public health, safety, civil liberty and social justice. The available social services and agencies of the government have limited funds to salvage the situation, and thus usually implement short term procedures. This has had a very negative effect and image to tourism.


There are various issues that lead to homelessness; unemployment and underemployment, unaffordable health care, physical disabilities, psychological disorders, mental problems, poverty, war, natural disasters, social exclusion, drug and substance abuse, imprisonment, foreclosures and eviction.


In America, the homeless individuals are single males, making over 80 of the homeless population. In most countries, the percentages of homeless males are usually very high. There is a similar overrepresentation of the homeless in non-whites. This group has a higher prevalence to be homeless in the United States. The homeless have an average age of between 18 to 65 years.

In Hawaii, homelessness is spread across various gender, status, race, ethnicity and age. A report prepared in 2010 showed that over 13, 000 people received homeless bound services at one point or another between 2009 and 2010. Honolulu had close to 10, 000 homeless with 1500 being in Hawaii county. The other counties had their fair share of the homeless.

According to federal data, Hawaii had over 15, 000 homeless people in 2006. Of the number mentioned, two thirds were not sheltered. This figure was distributed in Waianae, Wahiawa, Kauai, and Maui. Some of them were classified as chronic cases having repeated cases of homelessness and being homeless for over a year. Others were classified as sheltered homeless in that they were residing with families, with some living with families with children and others with single individuals.


The modern world has seen increased complexity in building of houses that has also increased costs, due to specialization. This has led to a decrease in the number of people who can comfortably afford to build a house. Incorporation of more laws and zoning limits has also led to the increase in costs of building. This issue has led to laws banning substandard houses. Rural urban migration, which is ever on the rise, has led to an increase in urban populations, a factor that has caused land in these areas to be more expensive.

The early urban shelters for the homeless were just enough for the nights as they were made in such a way that they got available at night. At the same time, there were daytime shelters where people could relax during the day and be able to get some necessary facilities.

Due to lack of storage facilities, many homeless are always with their belongings. This group of people tends to create some tension in the public places as they have nowhere to put their belongings and no access to such facilities as laundry and thus are always with bags.

In the 60s and the 70s, modern cases of homelessness started proliferating as a result of economic stress. There was continual reduction of affordable housing for the poor. In New York, as an example, most psychiatric patients were dismissed from their institutions leading to a rise in the number of the homeless.

This population was initially supposed to be housed in single rooms and receive community health care but this largely failed making most of them to be found in the streets. With this example, it is evident that the homelessness situation has not just been in Hawaii but in most other states in the USA (Moskowitz, 2013).

Due to the dramatic increase in homelessness especially in the 80s, various lawsuits emanated. Some of the lawsuits sought to establish some sort of standards that would ensure that the homeless got some reprieve from the government.

In Hawaii, such history can be traced through the story of Kalama valley. This valley was a land which was previously under contest though it came to provide refuge to more people. This was after a successful link between the homeless and homeland. The valley was once prone to contests between citizenship and the nation. The Kalama valley dispute is a good example or indicator of the prevalence that has been facing the homelessness issue in Hawaii.

The state of homelessness in Hawaii has worsened over the years thus warranting state intervention. The increase in the number of the homeless is an issue that saw the state governor push for construction of 17, 000 affordable houses in the state to cater for their plight. The state of the condition made the government come up with policies to end chronic cases of homelessness in the state as well. Eviction of the homeless from state parks is a factor that has received mixed reactions with people reacting to the manner in which they were evicted, with others praising the evictions, based on the environmental damage they were causing.

The government and state policies

There have been several bills in the Hawaii state parliament to curb this menace. Some of the bills which have been introduced after 2010 include;

Act 212: This authorizes the housing authority of the state to establish a special fund that implements programs for housing and other services to the individuals. Such funds would be subject to existing budgets.

House Bill 62: this was established in order to adopt some safe zones for the homeless that would have adequate sanitation and sleeping facilities. This came along with resolutions to make some public land available for these zones. House bill 2280 was adopted as a measure to reunite the homeless with their families. This bill had suggested a method of ensuring that they are availed with means to travel to their home states.

There are various organizations within the state that offer shelter for the homeless, stipends for shelter, grants, fund raising, outreach, job training and aide against drug and substance abuse.

There are enacted state policy options that have been put in place to assist runaway and homeless youth. They include;
Early intervention programs: Many youths are affected by these problems as a result of domestic problems. This makes them lack support that would make them find jobs, get educated, and be together with their families. States can be able to provide programs that may reunite such youths with their families, and also help in counseling them (NCSL, 2013).

Intervene with the homeless youth: Those that are already afflicted can be assisted to gain life stability through acquiring jobs and housing. The states can assist them with programs that can salvage them through outreach, training, employment, transitions, mental skills and life skills (NCSL, 2013).

Independent Options: Expansion of solutions that can serve for long term purposes. This can be provision of basic human needs. States can devise housing facilities that will assist the youth such as group homes, host homes, residential facilities treatment, juvenile, correctional facilities or treatment centers (NCSL, 2013).

Enhancement of services in Juvenile and foster care centers: Such services would come in handy in assisting the large youth population afflicted homelessness (NCSL, 2013).

Social intervention methods

There are various social policies that can be implemented and this can be done in various categories; macro level, mezzo level, and micro level intervention. In these levels, social workers have differing responsibilities as highlighted in the following section.
Macro intervention; this includes helping the affected people in large scale. Such can include lobbying for effecting of policies or laws, activism throughout the state and systemic systems.

Mezzo intervention; In this level, small groups are singled out and dealt with. Such can be community work, managing organizations that have social work policies included. Such interventions are good for addressing individual challenges.

Micro intervention; In this case, the social workers are obliged to meet individuals and families on a one on one basis. Counseling and therapy fall under this category.

There are various modes of intervention that can be put in place to avert the problem of youth homelessness in Hawaii. According to Walker, offering the emergency services would be a plus. in the case of the Waikiki homeless kids, who represent the other homeless population of youths across the state, availing jobs to the youths would also be important. Some of the micro solutions being put in place to assist the youth were finding them guardians who could support their upkeep until they were at least 18 years of age.

Direct social programs, at Mezzo as well as Micro level evident in Hawaii, to be specific Waikiki are various youth programs. A good example is the “E Makua Ana Youth Circles”. This program was initiated to address the main problems affecting the homeless youth (NCSL 2013). This group, offers individualized correction and foster care to youths between 16 and 18 years. In these circles the youth are trained on how to make independent decisions that would later help them in life. In these circles, the youths get to decide measures they would personally put in place to get them out of the custody if the state. Some likely examples discussed are policies, such as finance, employment, housing and education. Facilitators play a crucial role in making sure that the students become financially independent. Such a solution has been successful in various areas such as domestic violence, drugs amongst others. Such Waikiki circles have been documented to be successful and surveys indicated high levels of satisfaction to the youths (NCSL 2013).
The challenge on how to handle the homeless has been there for a while. This issue has been because of more adolescents running away from their families and living in the streets. This can lead to an increase in prostitution and making of more criminals. Most of the victims are so due to their backgrounds and in most cases have nothing to do with their predicaments. It is because of factors as this that the social groups need to involve the micro intervention methods as well as the mezzo and the macro to help avert this predicament for the society (Basuk & Rosenberg, 1988).

Macro level assistance such as lobbying for laws and policies that will increase parental accountability, Social groups as mentioned in the mezzo level and personal assistance to the individuals through talking to them is a very vital agenda.
In order to tackle the homelessness problem well, Hawaii authorities should device approaches into which the homeless youth would receive training and empowerment such that they can find employment and thus afford housing facilities. In such a manner, credible solutions will have been found that would assist the youth get off the streets.


Homelessness among the youth in Hawaii, just like in most other states in the country is a social problem that needs a social solution. Having been there and about for years now, the menace seems to be proliferating in the state. There are various reasons that this issue can be attributed to but the solution lies in the manner that this issue will be approached with. With the help of the state and humanitarian organizations, it is possible to reduce the number of homeless youths by engaging them in more constructive activities. Social interventions seem to be an ideal solution, considering that the issue is handle at various levels.


  • Basuk, E. & Rosenberg, L. (1988). Why does family homelessness occur? A case control study. American Journal of Public Health, 78 (7), 783-788.
  • Kidd, S. (2006). Youth homelessness and social stigma. J Youth Adolescence, 36, 291-299.
  • Martijn, C. & Sharpe, L. (2006). Pathways to Homelessness. Social science and medicine 62 (2006), 1-12.
  • Moskowitz, P. (2013, Oct). “Youth Homelessness at all time high, says report”, Aljazeera America, Retrieved from
    NCSL (2013). Homeless and Runaway youth. Retrieved from services/homeless-and-runaway-youth.aspx
  • United Nations (2009), Enumeration of Homeless People. Economic Commission for Europe Conference of European Statisticians, Group of Experts on Population and Housing Censuses, Twelfth Meeting, Geneva.