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#OnPointListens: Meet Shiwani From Honolulu

In this April 21, 2016 photo, affordable housing and homeless advocates rally outside the state capitol in Honolulu. Hawaii. (Cathy Bussewitz/AP)
In this April 21, 2016 photo, affordable housing and homeless advocates rally outside the state capitol in Honolulu. Hawaii. (Cathy Bussewitz/AP)
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On Point launched its 2017 National Listening Tour to go out into the country at large and get a handle on the issues driving conversations in communities big and small. We're heading to Tampa next week, but we also are continuing to hear your stories via our Hearken module on the #OnPointListens page.
A few weeks ago, we received a fascinating pitch from a listener in Honolulu— Shiwani Johnson, a legal assistant at a law firm in Hawaii.

"I would like the rest of the country to hear about a problem in Hawaii. The rest of America only hears about the beach and the hotels, if they hear about us at all. No one knows about our homeless problem. The homeless population in Hawaii is HUGE, and the laws that our state and county governments pass aren't helping. There are a lot of contributing factors and I would like to hear some experts inform the country."

We connected with Shiwani, looked into the issue — with some existing background awareness of the Aloha State's pressing homelessness crisis — and followed the progress of a bill proposed by Hawaii State Sen. Joe Green, classifying chronic homelessness as a medically-treatable condition eligible for treatment and funding under Medicaid.

When the bill started to gain traction, we put together a panel to work through the outlines of Shiwani's story — and invited her on to join us in the discussion, of course.

"I've been in contact with homelessness my whole life, I was born and raise here," Shiwani told us on air. "I went to school with kids who are homeless, I walk past a park on my way to work which is full of homeless people. The library right next to the park is full of homeless people, downtown Honolulu is full of homeless people. If you want to go the beach in Waikiki, homeless people."

The scope and depth of the homeless population in Hawaii is surprising for many tourists in the tourist-dominated economy of the state, Shiwani said. She's intrigued by Sen. Green's proposal, but thinks more can be done to help alleviate the housing crisis in her state.

"I see it every day — rent in Hawaii is absolutely ridiculous," Shiwani said. "There are people who are homeless who work, who work one or two jobs and still can't afford to live here. To start with, yes, but there needs to be more steps taken on this."

Do you have a local story in your community or region worth a closer look? We'd love to hear it. Use our Hearken module below to clue us in.

Ask Your Own Question As Part Of #OnPointListens!

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