A homeless man sleeps on Waikiki Beach | Image: Getty
The topic of homelessness has always been controversial, as it's a complex problem and there are vastly varying opinions on how to improve the situation. According to federal government records, the state of Hawaii has a population of 487 homeless per 100,000 people, the nation's highest rate per capita.
Each state has different policies and laws regarding this issue. In Hawaii, they have some procedures that may surprise people on the mainland. One example, in which two homeless men named Mark and Kenyon give input, follows:
6. The Government Will Fly the Homeless out of Hawaii
The homeless in Hawaii come from one of three places: locals who've hit hard times, people who moved to Hawaii to get work and lost it, and homeless who have purposely come to Hawaii to avoid cold winters.
Mark came from the second category: "I came to Hawaii with a bartending job waiting for me and $5,000 in my bank account. Within five months, my hotel had laid me off and I was out of my apartment."
Kenyon fell into the third category: "I'd been living either on the street or on a couch all summer and part of the fall in Louisville, [Kentucky,] and I didn't want to face the winter living under an overpass in an upturned shopping buggy. I bit the bullet, sold my Gibson guitar, and flew out to Hawaii. I knew of others who hit rock bottom and stayed on the beach in Hawaii, and I figured if I was going to be homeless this winter, I might as well go to Hawaii."
While Mark and Kenyon both figured on staying in Hawaii for a bit, neither have left -- much like thousands of homeless people from the mainland. A few eventually get out on their own, such as actor Chris Pratt, who was homeless and living on a beach in Hawaii for a year. But he was lucky: Statistically, less than 20 percent of homeless people are Chris Pratt. Unlike many homeless in the U.S. who are transient and go from city to city, once in Hawaii, it's hard to leave. You need a costly plane ride to get out, and whatever money the homeless make goes toward things like food (which, by the way, is 66 percent more expensive in Hawaii). It's hard to ride the rails to Tulsa from the shores of Waikiki.
Fortunately, hobos who want to escape paradise aren't helpless. The Hawaiian government has been flying hundreds of homeless people back to where they came from -- literally taking taxpayer money and flinging the bums away. But only the hobos who volunteer. And since "home" for many of them is a place where freezing to death is a regular concern, they opt to stay in Hawaii.
Mark: "Government workers came by a few times to our small camp with those flights. No one accepted, since going back with virtually nothing for the winter worried everyone. Would we freeze? We were so used to hot weather that suddenly being in 20-degree snow could seriously hurt us."
Read more facts regarding the homeless in Hawaii that may surprise you here. (Contains NSFW language.)