Article in Society / Activism / Equal Rights
People have been asking me to combine my 9 articles into one. People need to be aware that homeless have a unique perspective on their problems. I wish I could have wrote more, but I'm unable to continue and was to sick to write much about the last year. I hope my story lights up a dark corner.
 
 
 

No Shame, A Maui Homeless Tale

Falling Off The Edge

It wasn’t like I didn’t know about the cliff…I watch the news. I’d seen the sad stories about folks being pushed off the edge of the economic cliff into poverty and homelessness in this great country of ours: Not being able to find work for years, losing their life savings to medical problems or their homes to financial scams caused by events out of their control in far away places. Yet, like most people, I never realize it could happen to me, except in an abstract sense. I’ve been successful most of my life, have two college degrees. If you google my name, with Maui, websites and press links come up

Sure, I’d driven by the disheveled homeless carrying their heavy loads to god knows where. I’d seen, and smelt, them in the shopping malls with their vacant, hopeless stares panhandling for change. But I could not relate to them, and certainly didn’t hang with them. They were like litter to me…a problem that needed to be dealt with to make my Illusion nicer. Since I live on Maui, my illusion was already pretty fricken great. So like many people I gave to the food bank to help out: I’m now eating that food.

I’ve lived most of my life on the island of Maui in Hawaii. You’ve probably heard of it. That magical tropical paradise everyone dreams of coming to. Like everywhere else, there are many sides to Maui beyond the slick PR version of Mauiland most people see. I’ve witnessed Maui’s change from a mellow, old Hawaiian style island with one stop light and lots of empty beaches in the 1970’s to the expensive Mauiland vacation destination it is today. But, Maui’s just home to me, everyday normal.

At 62, I didn’t realize how close I was to falling off the economic cliff even though I’d been travelling along the edge of it for years. The fog of life blurred the drop off and I tripped off the cliff’s edge unexpectedly. One day I was l watching the whales play from my top floor, ocean front, condo living a comfortable, simple lifestyle (above photo), the next I was homeless, confused, trying to survive in a world that made no sense anymore. It really doesn’t matter how or why a person becomes homeless for the first time, there is no way to prepare for it. It requires a skill set that is not taught in school with a steep, fast, learning curve that can be life and death, especially if you’re older. My story offers a glimpse of what it is really like to fall into the pit of homelessness. It’s not like you think, there is no effective safety net and no one really cares unless they are being paid to. My friends, family and society have no shame not caring.

Our society has changed much from when I was growing up in Hawaii in the 1950’s and 60’s. There were really no homeless people as we know them today. Sure there were beach bums, but they didn’t bother anybody and always had a place to stay if they needed one. There were far fewer people living in Hawaii competing for a lifestyle that was quite a bit less materialistic than today’s consumer driven economy. Of course there were powerful rich folks back then, as well as poor, mostly immigrant people, but there was a growing group of middle class families that were not one pay check from financial disaster.

During the 1960’s, many of the human inequalities, including poverty, that have plagued mankind since forever were confronted in America. That is the environment I, and many other folks my age, grew up in. Unfortunately, the well-off decided that “trickle down” was more important than living in a “Great Society”. The decline of the middle class and growth of the very wealthy and dreadfully poor over the last forty years been well documented. But, until you’re walking out the door knowing you have no home to come back to, it’s not real. We are now beginning to reap what we’ve sown. At least I am.

We all know there is something wrong with the line of private jets at the Maui airport not far away from the tarp covered homeless camps. It makes sense that for a few people to be obscenely wealthy, many people have to be exceedingly poor. In fact, the richest 85 people on earth have as much wealth as poorest half (3.5 billion) of the human population.

Being homeless in the 21st century destroyed the myth that we’ve come a long way since the age of serfs, slaves, and kings for me. We just have different names for them; CEO’s, unemployed, legislators, and minimum wage workers. It is our unsustainable, quasi capitalist, system that will eventually lead to instability and suffering as other unequal social systems have throughout history. Only this time the destruction will be made worse by unstable technology, limited resources, environment concerns, WMD’s and other factors unique to the 21st century. We all feel it coming as we float comfortably down denial much like the people of London, Tokyo, and Berlin did in the 1930’s before WWII.

For me, all the world’s troubles existed far away from Maui on a TV screen. It was not my problem Mon…. until September 2013 when I did not have the money for rent after a project was canceled because of the federal government shutdown. As the debate raged in our society about the causes, scale, and impact of growing numbers of people being forced off the cliff into homelessness, I quickly became one of the statistics.

News reports don‘t come close to capturing the brutal reality of homelessness. The poor and homeless really have no voice in our society. The “programs” developed to help them are created by people who are not homeless and have their own religious, political and economic agenda. They think of the homeless as folks who need treatment, which is true in some cases. But more and more, people on the street are just victims of an unsustainable, unjust, economic system that throws them under the bus. The rest of society has “no shame” letting them get run over.

My fall off the cliff was not as harsh as many other homeless experience across our country. I mean I live on Maui, so no violins. But to me it was, and still is hell. It has totally changed my view of how poorer, disadvantaged people live in our society much like combat will change your view of war. It’s hard to imagine the depth of despair, loneliness and depression that lay at the bottom of the cliff of homelessness. It is a place of flies, shame, hopelessness, and loss of freedom that makes suicide seem like a step up for many. This is especially true if you were elderly living a comfortable middle class illusion like I was. Without warning you are sent floating through a surrealistic version of your past life were everything is turned upside down, but looks the same.

The agony of one’s fall off the economic cliff is determined by how far up the cliff you were when you stumbled down it. The better your life was before you fell, the worse your homeless experience will be. If you just got out prison or drug rehab, homelessness might seem like a step up. But if you were living a normal American life with hot showers, cold beer, flat screen and smart phone it will seem like the end of the world. All the cool normal stuff we take for granite like the internet, shopping, privacy, easy transportation, disappears. You will be treated like an ex-con or addict even if you’ve never been arrested nor had a substance abuse problem in your life. They say homelessness is not a crime, but people will treat you like you’ve done something very wrong and made the shameful “choice” to be homeless.

I made no such choice. I had been battling sever sleep disorders for years, as well as skin cancer, including Melanoma. Medical cost, and the fact that no one hires people over 60 years old (believe me, I tried) had pushed me to the edge of a financial cliff I didn’t comprehend. One lost contract due to ridiculous political events I didn’t control meant I couldn’t pay rent and I found myself freefalling down the cliff to homelessness. It happened so fast I didn’t have a chance to think, adjust, or even realize what was happening to me. My family and friends didn’t understand or care. They were worrying about maintaining their lives on top of the cliff. They probably figured I deserved it because my life had been fairly easy and people love to see the mighty fall. I’m also sure that most people don’t have a clue what it really means to be homeless. I know I didn’t. The world would be a better place if everyone had to be truly homeless for a week.

In hindsight, I realize that my 62+ years of life have not been normal. I’ve always marched to the beat of a different drummer down the road less travelled. For whatever reason, change in my life is extreme and abrupt. It seems the more I try to control things, the less control I have. I have had hard times; my child died after birth, I went through a bad divorce, lost all my money, my dog died…blah, blah, blah. But I always had the hope, energy, resources and health to get through the bad times very quickly.

I’ve worked hard and accomplished a lot. I could take risks because I had no family, kids or pets that depended on me. But, I also I did not save much, or prepare for retirement, because no one counted on me. I had a “you can’t take it with you” philosophy. As I got older I became more isolated from the world. Friends and family drifted or ran away as I retreated into my own little world. I lived in my Maui illusion that things will always work out somehow, they always have before. These articles will be more of a firsthand account of my homeless experience than self-examination of my life. For more information on my life before homelessness you can go to my “mauitales.com” or “tdhawaii.com” websites and click on the links.

One of the prime dilemmas the homeless have is that most people believe they are being taken care of by government and private programs. While that is somewhat true, most homeless resources really benefit the people who administer and work for the programs. I discovered that homelessness is a business. It is a business with a great public relations department that keeps taxpayers and private donors believing they are doing a great job.

Like most institutional and government bureaucracies, the people in charge of taking care of the poor and homeless first priority is making sure they get elected, funded and paid. They make up as many “programs” as they can, many of them ineffective and unneeded, to make it seem like the homeless are being taken care of. Of course you can just drive down the street and see the homeless crises is increasing, exponentially….no one is taking care of most of them. Case workers just shuffle homeless around getting signatures to prove they helped someone so they can get paid. Like many other aspects of our society, the safety net is not working like it should.

Anyone who is homeless, for whatever reason, is thrown into the same garbage can. Mentally and physically disabled, elderly, drug addicts, immigrants, ex-cons, veterans, and other low income people who become homeless are all pushed through the same small hole. It’s not that these folks don’t need help, they truly do. It’s that they need different kinds of help. Not all homeless need treatment, education, or rehabilitation. Most just need a cheap place to stay because rental prices are out of control and minimum wage is not enough to live on.

In fact, most homelessness would be eliminated if the minimum wage was made into a living wage, or maybe we stop wasting money on useless wars. We are a rich country. If only the wealthy “takers” stopped receiving so much of humanities resources, we would all have enough to get by on, again. Like slavery in the 1800’s, poverty and homelessness is a condition that some in our society believe is part of life, just the way it is. It’s amazing that most folks don’t have a clue; seeing as the homeless and poor are talked about add nausea by media, politicians, businessmen, NGO’s, and religions-each putting their own spin on it. They all have no shame getting paid doing it. The information and opinions are often conflicting and tend to confuse the average person trying to understand why there is homelessness.

The people (taxpayers) who fund “programs” to help the homeless need to know how those resources are being used. This is a very complex problem that goes to the basic core of our societies beliefs: Much like when slavery was fought over. Our nation is going to have to decide if we will continue to have one set of rules for the well off, and another for the poor? Will we continue to allow this large redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich to continue? Until I became homeless, I did not realize how far apart the divide has become; Not only in wealth, but in basic human rights and needs. When your “choice” comes down to living illegally on the street, or giving up your basic rights for depression era shelter and food….there is no good answer.

Again, the people who are homeless in America have no voice. That is one of the main reasons I’m writing this series of articles. I am actually homeless, living on a bunk bed in an emergency shelter as I write this. Homeless “Programs” are now my way of life. The content in these articles, and hopefully an ebook later, comes from my continuing firsthand experience being homeless on Maui for many months.

It is a painfully personal story, but someone needs to warn folks about the modern homeless experience in a way they can relate to. I will share with you the “choices” I’ve had to make on my journey though homelessness. Real hard choices that affected every aspect of my life. Choices I couldn’t even imagine when I lived the good life. More and more people are falling off the cliff every day, and are having to make these hard choices. Middle class people, elderly folks, individuals who have played by the rules and loss it all. My story is a firsthand no shame look at homelessness. I couldn’t make this shit up and don’t know how it’s going to end.

In my journey through homeless land, I’ve met many of its inhabitants. They live in camps, cars, shelters, “woofer” farms, NGO “programs”, surviving as best they can. Some are native Hawaiians; others are right off the plane. The poor on Maui have to complete with the richest people on the planet for a spot on one of the nicest places on earth. Many homeless did make bad choices; some are scamming the system; most seem to be the victims of “shit happens”. This should be a warning to those who think you can just move to Maui and live on the beach. Those days are long gone….unless you’re extraordinarily well off.

My time being homeless started just as the 2013 holiday season began. It is the traditional time that the community is asked to throw the less fortunate a bone, as long as it doesn’t cut into “black Friday” shopping. As for myself, I was totally forgotten about by my friends and family though they knew I was very depressed, even suicidal, over my situation. I spent Thanksgiving in a Nissan Sentra, Christmas sleeping outside at a homeless shelter, and New Years in a men’s shelter dormitory. I know many people thought I should be thankful I had a place to sleep at all… as they celebrated their media driven holiday illusion.

Since most people have never been homeless, they don’t have an inkling of how awful it is. For me it was like a bad dream I could not wake up from. Every morning I’d open my eyes shocked and confused wondering; were am I, what happened to my quiet bedroom with the cool trade winds and soft bed. After a while the bad dream becomes normal. The good life I was living joined the memories of the pass. Most people learn to survive the misery of homelessness. I came very close to becoming one of those unattended deaths that no one cares about.

I will try and keep my writing as raw as I can. For many, homelessness is more of a mental battle than a physical one. The shame of trying to figure out why life is so different for them is a bitch. All the familiar landmarks and sign post are gone. Could it have been worse for me, absolutely? Did it have to be this bad?... no way! Society as a whole has no shame in allowing the homeless and poor to be treated in a way most Americans would not tolerate. “Do unto others” does not seem to apply anymore. Will people speak up and demand a more just society before it’s too late? I doubt it, there is “cyber Monday” to worry about.

I hope to shine a real light on the shameful problem of homelessness on the magical island of Maui from the perspective of an elderly, well educated, person who has never been homeless before. Some of the writing may seem rambling and confusing, much like the real experience that I’m still trying to understand and come to grips with. There will be way more questions than answers. But these are questions that, as a society, we will have to answer soon. For we are all paying a large price both economically and in our quality of life for not taking care of low income people while the wealthy feed at the trough. There are societies were everyone is afforded a minimum quality of life. As a culture, we need to get out the techno illusion we live in and deal with the real world before it is too late, which it may already be….especially for people laying at the bottom of the cliff.

I’m putting these tales together because I feel I have to, whether I want to or not. It’s where I’m being led, like the Hobbit Frodo by the ring. Or like Pi from the book “Life Of Pi”. My ship has suddenly sunk and I’m in this weird homeless lifeboat learning how to survive in a harsh environment any way I can. I have no shame anymore and can tell it like it is. Unlike the fiction I have written before, I don’t control how my homeless tale will turn out. There is no contrived beginning, middle and end: I do not control the characters and events as they are real people and the experience goes on as I write. That doesn’t mean I don’t have 20/20 hindsight. I am constantly reediting stuff I’ve already written as new information and thoughts appear. Most importantly, I don’t know how this book will end or if I will survive to finish it. The Homeless tales will end when my shame ends and I have my own place to live. This is real life unlike reality TV.

Maybe my writing will open a few eyes or start a conversation somewhere about what kind of society we want for the future. I hope it will eventually provide me with some resources to get out of this prison and live happily ever after again, though I doubt it. In my next article “Life’s Unfair”, I begin looking at the reality of homelessness from a macro and micro point of view. Somehow the larger picture becomes clearer when looking through the candy store window from the outside.

Copyright Sanford L. Hill 2014

Life’s Unfair

We all know life’s unfair: Illness, death, heartbreak and economic problems can happen to anyone at any time. Things like death, (taxes?), and illness, are terrible but unavoidable in life. Poverty on the other hand is created by the type of society we live in. Poverty is a man-made failure to take care of each other. As a society we are choosing to use our country’s resources to make the privileged wealthier, fight unnecessary wars, and allow the campaign money, lobbyist and media to set our nation’s agenda. We all know this to be true to different degrees. It’s a problem that goes back to the beginning of civilization. The few in power finding ways to control the poorer people who provide their wealth and security. It is our choice as a nation to allow tens of millions of people to live below what we call the “poverty line” so that others can have huge amounts of riches. Do you really understand how much a BILLION dollars is?

Just as in mid-evil times, the well-off well off today use the “life’s unfair” defense to justify the treatment of the poor. They believe it is prosperous people’s destiny, right, hard work, God’s will, or other such non-sense that allows them to sleep peacefully in their warm beds. Meanwhile, millions of their fellow countrymen are sleeping on the ground, cold, hungry and sick because life’s unfair. Life IS unfair because our quasi-capitalistic system demands that many have much less so some can have way more. Its common sense, even a lot of the poor believe it has to be like this…. It’s just the way it is. This is the same argument the slave owners have used since biblical days.

Many people living before the civil war believed slavery was “just the way it is”. It was common place in most parts of the world back then. A major war to free slaves had never been fought in human history until our Civil War. Yes, there were other reasons for the civil war, but the end result was the demise of slavery that was practiced in the parts of the USA. Today slavery is considered inhumane by most people. It is not totally gone, but not allowed by law anywhere in the world. That is a big change. There are many other examples of injustice ending as people evolved. Can anyone say gay rights?

Hopefully, future humans will evolve enough to look back on abject poverty and extreme wealth the way we now look back on slavery. There are many similarities between poverty and slavery. They are both used to create wealth for the owners, be they plantation owners or corporate owners. Making sure that there is no shortage of the minimum wage workers, who have taken the place of slaves, allows the rich to get richer.

In many ways I feel like Solomon Northup in “12 Years A Slave” who suddenly lost his freedom by being the wrong race, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. While his treatment was much harsher than mine, it was normal for the times. But, most folks back thenwould not have understood the cruel mental and physical agony of being a slave unless they had been one.

I too have lost many of my freedoms and been thrown into homelessness and extreme poverty due to events beyond my control. I’m an educated white man. According to the media, I’m supposed to have a privileged life. What happened? I still don’t understand what I did wrong and why I’m being treated this way. It is a whole different way of surviving that I had no idea existed on an island I’ve lived on for over 40 years. I see our world economy from a whole new perspective from my dormitory bunk.

We have been trying to build a society that is based on justice and a rule of law that is fair to everyone. The American experiment was built on the rule of law, which we are all supposedly equal under. This is a great concept, but very hard to implement when dealing with human beings over time who believe in different things and have diverse agendas in life.

But our founding fathers gave everyone a basic “Bill of Rights”. Well, everyone except the slaves. Unfortunately, these laws only work when everyone has equal access to the courts. Only people with enough money to hire a attorney have the ability to go to court and challenge or defend their legal rights when wronged by the government, big business, NGO’s, or any other deities that can afford an attorney. It is a pay to play, dog eat dog, quasi-capitalist society with everyone fighting to be a player.

Unfair access to the legal system is one reason the poor remain in poverty. I know if I could find a lawyer, I would sue to correct the pain, suffering, abusive and negligent treatment I, and many other homeless experience. I believe a jury would be outraged and do the right thing. It would also put the legislators who make the wasteful, unfair and often corrupt laws and policies that affect the poor and the homeless in the hot seat for a change. But I am one of the 80% of poor folks who have no access to the legal system to protect their civil and other legal rights.

If you are broke and homeless you’re not even in the fight to be a player in our society, no matter how hard you work. There are no real legal advocates for the homeless and poor. Legal aid is an underfunded joke: the ACLU takes on only a few high profile civil rights cases where they feel they can win. When it comes down to it, everyone is not equal under the law. I never realized how unequal it has become until I became homeless.

Simple rights like “innocent until proven guilty” are taken away from the homeless while the wealthy are able to steal and deceive the American people out of 100’s of billions doing business as usual. Control of the poor is no longer done by force, except as a last resort in America. The “Jim Crow” homeless laws that control the lives of the underprivileged are enacted by a government influenced by campaign money and lobbyist who are controlled by the world’s richest citizens. This fact has been well documented in the media.

But, one cannot understand the brutal reality of this double standard until one becomes impoverished. Then one is given a choice from a system of government and private programs that forces you to give up basic rights to meet ones vital needs. OR, return to the harsh punishment of living illegally on the street, medical problems, hunger, violence and other oppressive conditions the poor face every day.

Again, our nation made a ‘choice” to treat the poor this way. The poor did not make a choice to be poor, it is just the price they pay so others can have more. On Maui there are thousands of empty housing units and we waste enough food in just the visitor industry to feed everyone that’s hungry. It seems that there is a homeless person for every vacation rental unit sitting on Maui waiting for people who can afford the high rent. No one making minimal wage can afford a rental without some type of government help on Maui. The waiting list for low income housing and HUD support is 2 to 5 years long. More cutbacks are coming due to the manufactured “debt crisis”. The max “welfare” amount the state gives for disabled general assistants is $348.00 a month. The ONLY place you can possibly find shelter for that price is low income housing or a homeless “program”. It is the least able, the elderly, disabled and children, that suffer most from these economic choices our society makes. But everyone knows that.

I now survive in this homeless reality. I’m currently living at Ka Hale a Ke Ola (KHAKO), a non-profit homeless “program” in Wailuku, Hawaii. To live here I had to give up many rights that I used to take for granted and allow KHAKO to virtually run my life. KHAKO says I’m here by “choice” and voluntarily agreed to this when I entered the program. When your life and health are at stake, many homeless will “voluntarily choose” to give up freedoms that everyone else takes for granite to get shelter and food. Other homeless would rather endure the harsh life on the street than give up their freedom.

Before I could get a bed and food at KHAKO, I had to sign a legal agreement that released KHAKO and all government and private sponsors from any liability for ANYTHING that happens to me, even if it was their fault. I had to agree to have my belonging search at any time and to be drug/alcohol tested at any time, even though I’ve never had a substance abuse problem. I have to ask KHAKO’s permission to stay out overnight or have guest visit me. There are many other conditions (I will publish a copy of the agreement). If you don’t make your bed in the morning you can be sent back to the street. All this because I’m now poor.

Staying at KHAKO is not free. I have to pay $187.50 a month in “program fees” plus electricity out of my $348.00 State disability check for a small studio apt that I share with someone I had never met before. I also have to do 12 hours of work (kitchen, cleaning units, etc) for KHAKO a month worth at least $120+. The $620.00 in program fees and labor KHAKO gets for these old, funky tenement style studio apartment is around market price. Because it is part of a “program” KHAKO does not have to follow the State of Hawaii “Landlord Tenant Code Law. It is this loss of rights and freedom that makes living here different than any other place on Maui except prison or drug rehab.

On Maui if you suddenly become homeless, there are only two shelters available. Both are “programs” supported mostly by public funds. The other “choice” is to live illegally in the harsh bushes or dangerous beaches being chased around by ever more aggressive law enforcement. I’ve tried it all, beboping around Maui trying to find a cheap, simple, safe place to live. After four months, I still live in fear of not knowing where I’ll sleep tonight. I found out a few days ago how tentative my living situation was at KHAKO, even after living here for over two months and paying a monthly program fee.

I was physically woken by my angry roommate at 6.30am in the morning because I’d unintentionally knocked his internet plug out next to my bed while sleeping. He quickly filed an “incident report” with the KHAKO staff claiming I threatened him, which was just untrue. I also filed an incident report detailing how he physically harassed me with no provocation while I was asleep. No one else witness the incident.

My roommate just moved here from the mainland, makes $45K a year as a computer programmer, and can easily move out whenever he wants. Why he is living here baffles me, other than he pays the same cheap rent (program fees) I do. Maybe he’s saving for a nice Vaca. He is one of a few people living at KHAKO who take advantage of these homeless programs who don’t need them. KHAKO knows all this, but they need people that can pay the “program fees”. Meanwhile, there are homeless people turned away or asked to leave every day because they can’t afford to pay for whatever reason. There are no waivers or grants: if one can’t afford the “program fees” you are on the street…there is no mercy.

Without any evidence that I did anything wrong or violated any of the programs rules other than a hearsay statement from my guilty roommate, I was given a half hour to pack my things and leave the property. My roommate did not have to leave for reasons I do not understand. The weird thing is I’ve known his case worker for almost 40 years. He used to be a Hawaiian political activist, now he helps throw innocent locals out on the street and aids newcomers right off the plane get good paying Maui jobs. He has sold out like many 60’s activist, though I’m sure he has a good rational for it.

I filed an appeal, and a hearing on my case was scheduled in three days. Until the hearing, I could not go on KHAKO property. KHAKO staff routinely evicts people from their shelter for any number of reasons which they are the sole judge and jury. My roommate was not evicted, but I was. In my opinion, it is just an arbitrary way of punishing clients they feel need it. Even if they overturn the eviction in the appeal, you’ve still have to spend three harsh nights on the street. Maybe they are pissed I’m writing these articles that shines a light on the plight of the homeless, and their incompetence.

I was told by the KHAKO operations staff that I could stay at the other homeless shelter until my appeal hearing. The only other homeless shelter on Maui is “Family Life Center” operated by the First Assembly of God church. It is a bleak overnight shelter that I’d stayed at before and will write more about later. Because most of the Family Life Center staff was at a homeless conference, I had to wait until 4:00pm to be admitted. I was then told I could not be admitted because they had just been told at the conference that they could not admit a homeless person registered with KHAKO. KHAKO told me they could not unregister me off their program before the hearing or I’d be barred from coming back for six months.

In other words I was screwed and had to find a place to stay on the street, just before dark. Remember, I’m in my 60’s, have medical problems, and had not even taken long pants, shoes, or even a raincoat with me because I was told I had a place to stay. It was the beginning of three days of suicidal hell.

There are as many ways of living on the street as there are people. Homeless adapt as best they can based on their skills and assets. Some are better at it than others, but they do have a few problems in common. There is no place to legally camp on Maui that does not cost money or require permission from the land owner. As in other places, most homeless squat somewhere until they get kicked out, which may take awhile due to the many absentee landowners. They try to hide their camps out of sight in hard to find jungle or bushes areas. Most homeless campsites have no water, sanitation, or utilities. They are dirty, smelly, and full of flies and trash, real third world.

On my first night of exile from the KHAKO program, I was lucky to bump into a black brother who I knew from living in the men’s dormitory at the program shelter. He had a tent stashed in the Kiawe brush by the airport like many homeless living in shelters do….Just in case they get kicked out. He took me out to his spot that was hidden deep in a Kiawe thicket hollow, but not too far from the road. For those of you that do not know, Kiawe trees are the South American Mesquite tree introduced to Hawaii back in the day. They are covered in long, woody thorns that will go right through a shoe. If you go into a Kiawe thicket you will get cuts, which is why no one goes in them… except the homeless. I cleared out small area and set up the one man tent where I stayed for the next two days being careful that no one notice me going in or out. I didn’t eat for 24 hours, it was rainy and there were lots of mosquitoes. The bus stop was a long walk away.

On the third day, the brother needed his tent back as he was leaving the island. I was cut up, sore, cold and could not handle having to now sleep out in the elements. So I spent $35.00 out of the few hundred I have left to rent a cheap car for a day. Having a car is a big step up in the homeless world. Most homeless live in cars and vans on Maui. Having a car allows one to take a cold shower at the beach, get food, and use the bathrooms at different places. It also keeps one out of the weather, has a radio, and the soft seat is better than the hard, cold ground. But it also cost money, something most homeless have little of.

I had lived off and on in a car during the first two months I was homeless when I still had some money. It allowed me to stay at places that are too far away from the bus stop to walk to. Some of the places were quite scenic, others were just spots along the side of the road. Finding a place to park at night is a problem that grows every week. Most state and county parks close at night to keep out the homeless. It also deters locals and visitors from using the beaches at night. Even the roads in front of the parks have “no parking 8pm to 5am” signs to keep homeless from sleeping in their cars after the parks close. Private property owners are also increasing their security to keep homeless out. Making sure the homeless have no place to stay except in a “program” is government policy. If they are in a “program,” people make money operating and servicing it. It’s also a loophole to take away their freedom and confine them.

After three days on the street, I returned to KHAKO for my appeal hearing where my eviction was overturned. I was sent back to the same unit, with the same person who physically harassed me and had not been evicted. He is sitting a few feet away from me as I write this playing the “World of Warcraft” video game online again… he has a nice computer. You can imagine that there is some tension, but I put up with it because I have no where else to live. Every time I hear Operations staff knocking on a door saying “they are going to come in”, I fear I am going to be sent packing back to the street.

The preceding incident is but one example of my life as a homeless person. It’s kinda like paying to be in prison because you can’t survive on the street. There are clients in KHAKO who really do need programs for drug addiction, family problem, education, and life skills, as well as, mental and physical disabilities. But to throw all these people into cramped living conditions and treating them all the same is nuts. It is also an inefficient use of scarce resources. There are better treatment options on Maui for ex-cons, education, drug rehab, and the disabled.

I have two college degrees, I don’t need an education. I know how to clean my house and apply for a job, I don’t need classes for that. Yet, I and others, are forced to take classes we don’t need or be exiled back to the street. The reason for that is KHAKO gets paid by the tax payers, for everyone taking a class whether they need them or not. Signing in to each class is the main requirement because each signature is worth money to the program, staff, and providers. Sometimes the “class” is only a few minutes long. The same is true of case workers and meals, even if they are donated. It adds up to a lot of money.

To be fair, much of this way of doing things is forced on the homeless programs by the government agencies that fund them. Each funding source has different rules and requirements. Documenting services provided to the homeless takes up much of the programs budget and time. This is another part of the homeless food chain. Anyone who works in a government position that deals with the poor and homeless gets paid, and there are a lot of them including legislators. Many of these government positions are overseers whose function is to make sure tax dollars are being spend wisely. Obviously they are not doing a very good job as homelessness keeps growing and costing more. The lacks oversight also opens the window to fraud.

In a February 16th 2014 front page article in the Maui News the facts were laid bare. KHAKO would not be able to pay back 8 to 9 million dollars in loans borrowed from the Maui taxpayers and have not paid interest on the loans for years. In the auditor’s opinion, inefficient operating cost where to blame. That’s a lot of money for a small county like Maui and it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Sure they fired the KHAKO CEO, cut the computer lab and child care program, but most of the problems with KHAKO remain.

They will probably hire a new CEO, makes some cosmetic changes, and a bunch of new people will figure out how to get paid. This has been going on here for a long time. It is a shame that the homeless will suffer the most from all these changes as money and services are cut. The money saved from cutting the ineffective computer lab will not go to providing cost effective WIFI for KHAKO clients to look for work, housing, and find help from family and friends. That would make too much sense. The people who run homeless programs have little common sense, or are just plain corrupt.

On February 19th I attended the monthly Maui Homeless Alliance meeting. There were 20 to 25 good intentioned people there representing agencies and programs that are involved in the homeless business. They were all being paid, as part of their job, to be there, except me, the only actual homeless person attending. So, why isn’t a paid homeless person part of the decision making process on how the homeless are cared for? They would have valuable first-hand knowledge of current conditions and programs that affect the homeless.

For instance; one of the items on the agenda was the one day homeless count done the month before on a day when it was pouring rain. Most of the agencies at the meeting participated in the poll as best they could. They counted only 549 homeless on Maui that day. Any homeless person could tell you that there are 1000’s more homeless than that. People living in cars, deep in the bushes, staying temporary with friends and family. Yet, 549 is the official number of homeless on Maui that people and government will use. So why isn’t there a paid homeless person at the Maui Homeless Alliance meeting? Because if they were paid, they would not be homeless. They would join the employed workers in the bubble looking out at the homeless problem.

When people are guaranteed a job with a living wage this whole homeless, poverty situation will begin to change. Think about it. I’ve found that many people living in taxpayer subsidized homeless shelters that have low paying jobs with corporations like McDonald’s, Hertz, Roberts Hawaii, Ace Hardware, Lowes and others. Even full time, these jobs do not pay enough to rent a house on Maui. Even if you make $10.00 an hour you would have to have two full time jobs to survive here, barely, and you would not get any government assistants or health care benefits. The homeless and very poor are a gold mine of low wage workers just as the jungles of Africa were in the 1700’s. In relative terms, it cost businesses around the same amount of resources to pay a worker minimum wage today as it did to own and care for a slave in the 1800’s.

The lower the cost of labor, the higher the profits are. Simple econ 101. To keep low paid workers alive and healthy, the government pays for much of their food cost (food stamps), health care (Medicaid) and housing (HUD) for those who can get it. So all of the “government handouts” pass quickly through the hands of the needy and into the pockets of the “job creators”. Billions in Food Stamps dollars spent by the impoverished go directly to large corporations like Safeway and Tyson foods every year. The same is true of medical care and housing who all PROFIT from services they bestow on the needy paid for with taxpayer money. Do the lives deprived get better? According to most studies, the lives of the poverty-stricken are getting worse.

Just look at how many people are paying taxes to keep me alive in poverty because I, and millions of others like me, can’t find a living wage job. Job pay, working conditions, benefits and hiring are controlled by forces that are beyond my control. You do not go out and GET a job, someone GIVES you a job for their benefit. In a world of exponentially increasing population, shrinking resources and higher productivity due to technology, competition for jobs will only increase in the future. Poverty, the poor, and homelessness will continue to grow as a natural by-product. It is just simple logic and math. Unless something radical is done now to get at the root of the poverty problem…It won’t end well for anyone.

So how do we get at the root of the dilemma? How do we evolve like the folks who fought against slavery in America during the 1800’s? I think it starts when citizens become educated and speak out against injustice. Fortunately, we still have the right of free speech in our country, even though the media is controlled by fewer and fewer people who represent deities that want poverty to continue for their own personal benefit.

We would need to change our system big-time to eliminate the very poor and homeless. This does not mean the returning to“trickledown” theory, communism or other social models that have become completely obsolete in fast changing 21st century conditions. It means thinking like “Star Trek” and “going were no man has gone before”. Before that can happen a critical mass of people must believe that abject poverty is morally wrong, wasteful, unstainable, and needs to be thrown in the dust bin of history with slavery.

So how can I convince a few readers of these articles that homelessness and poverty must be abolished to make all of our lives better? I can give a lot of facts, examples, logic and information, but lots of others have done that and much of it is confusing. I can pull at the heart strings with harsh first-hand observations and sad stories others have told me about being deprived, but I doubt it would make any difference. I’d seen “Tent City”, “Being Flynn”, and the police protecting workers throwing the meager belongings of the homeless into garbage trucks on the evening news before I became homeless. I felt for them until I changed the channel.

But once you’ve experienced being homeless and destitute first-hand for a while, the world seems different. Everyone handles impoverishment differently; some drink, some fight, some go crazy and a few kill themselves. On Maui we call them “unattended deaths”. Four to five bodies listed in the Maui News, but not claimed, and cremated by the county.

Me, I write to survive. Not that I haven’t been clinically depressed and thought seriously about suicide since I’ve been homeless. I mean it is a very depressing situation and all the destitute homeless I’ve talked to privately admit to thoughts of killing themselves at one time or another, many have even tried. I have to wonder how much mental and physical illness is directly related to poverty and homelessness. The cost of poverty and homelessness is hidden in many places.

I’m sure that when the real hidden cost of poverty are added up, it would be cheaper to pay basic living welfare like in the 1970’s. Having a living wage, and the privileged paying more for the unreal benefits of living in America would reduce the needy and provide for folks who really need help. Our economy would not crumble just as it did not crumble when slavery ended. Let’s just pray it does not take another violent civil war this time. Right now it seems headed in that direction. To think America could not explode like the Arab spring uprising is foolish.

We need to add to the right of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” the basic quality of life provisions needed to obtain those lofty human goals for everyone. A guaranteed basic right to food, shelter, medical care, transportation, and in this high-tech age computer internet, would a make us a much more prosperous, modern and, more importantly, happier nation.

Most people given the basic necessities of life would become valuable member of our society and not burdens. Some would abuse the system, but they would not be cool or accepted. Drug abuse would decline as people are no longer stressed out over providing the basic needs of life for them and their loved ones. This was tried in the “Great Society” experiment in the 1970’s but the country wasn’t yet ready, or as desperate, as we are now.

In my next article, “Lost Tribes”, I will tackle the thorny issue of the breakup of society, loved ones and growth of narcissism. The growth of poverty is directly related to the increasing lack of compassion our nation has for one another.

Copyright Sanford L. Hill 2014

Lost Tribes

Thanksgiving….The American holiday when people gather in tribes of friends, family and cultures to share a meal of thanksgiving for the blessings they have received. Tribes are groups of folks who are connected in different ways. It could be ancestry, religion, work, interest, politics, or different types of family relationships. Thanksgiving can be the gathering of one tribe or many, sometimes even opposing, tribes eat together. The Native Americans and settlers at the first thanksgiving were not exactly friends or family. It is a uniquely American holiday which celebrates how diverse tribes can take care of each other.

Unfortunately, it’s only for one day: and that is being cut into by “Black Friday”. I had a homeless Thanksgiving in 2013, alone at Poli Poli state park sleeping in a car. Poli Poli park is at the 8,000 ft. level of Haleakala hence temperatures drop into the forties: I woke up shivering in the middle of the night. So, I drove back down the mountain and got caught in the traffic of people heading to Black Friday in the middle of the night. Lots of folks in nice cars in a hurry to spend money surrounded me: completely surreal. It wasn’t always like that. We have become a society looking for stuff instead of stuffing on Thanksgiving.

The photo montage above is from Thanksgiving gathering I’ve gone to or hosted in the 20th century. Photos of Hawaiian Kalua Turkey Thanksgivings with former tribes of friends at my farm in Hana Maui, Upcountry Maui and on Oahu. Traditional Thanksgivings I used to go to every year until egos and money got in the way; my former church tribe’s Thanksgiving with smiling, happy people sharing- that church is no more. But the best one is the lower right photo of the last Thanksgiving my entire family had together at my place in Newport Beach in 1986. It was also the first Thanksgiving we all had together since the early 1970’s. One family Thanksgiving in forty years. That should say a lot about my dysfunctional family ties and why none of them really helped me when I became homeless.

I’m not really part of any of the tribes in the photos anymore. Everyone just slipped away into different realms over the years, including me. A few have pass on. I know that many of the people in the photos haven’t been close for years and certainly don’t celebrate Thanksgiving together anymore. I’m sure a few of the old tribe are glad I’m homeless and feel I deserve it….maybe I do.

In the last sixty years we have witnessed one of the greatest transformations of family and social norms ever that was not brought about by social upheaval or natural tragedy. Percentages of people in traditional families (father, mother, kids), with steady jobs, and following traditional religions has been declining every year for a while. The new “Black Friday” Thanksgiving tradition of the 21st century seems a dark reminder of where our culture is now heading.

We talk about the importance of family, friends and community, but our actions speak louder than words. People under 35 years old cannot remember life without digital media and communication. Anyone can google information about these changes, statistics, images, you name it, and get back plenty of conflicting information. But, what is the truth: how are these changes putting me, and many others, into poverty and homelessness?

When I was growing up on Oahu in the 1950’s and 60’s many of these changes were already beginning. My family was at the cutting edge of what we now call normal. Even though my parents were US citizens, they were immigrants to Hawaii in the 1940’s. Hawaii was still a territory of the United States when I was born. They were the new order of educated technocrats with very little cultural, religious or family ties; looking for the good, materialistic, “fun” life just after World War 2. Like many immigrants, they did not really understand the culture of Hawaii. They tried to fit in, and adapt, but never really became part of the local multi-cultural Hawaii that became my way of life. For example, I was named after the first governor of Hawaii, Sanford B. Dole to impress the rich haole (white) descendants my parents hung out with at the Waikiki Yacht Club. Of course Sanford Dole led the rebellion that overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy and is hated by many Hawaiian descendants.

So did I belong to the tribe of my place of birth or my racial ancestry? My parents were the beginning of a growing demographic group who changed cultures during their life. Identities that had defined us for centuries have become muddled. After my parent’s children die there will be no descendant of theirs in Hawaii, or anywhere else. Millions of years of evolution comes to an end in paradise. Kind of Ironic.

Hawaii’s cultures also began changing very quickly with the introduction of mass commercial air travel, TV, and consumerism. All the things we consider normal now. By the time I was ten years old there were high rises, freeways and tunnels through the mountains. When I was 20 years old I’d had enough of the new normal and ran away to the yet undeveloped, mellow island of Maui. The tidal wave of change followed me until I gave up and became part of it.

The fast social change was being matched by a rising rate of divorce and single parent households, which were still uncommon during my parent’s bitter divorce when I was 12 years old. I grew up in a quasi-American household, in a multi-cultural Polynesian society being bombarded by post-modern western media. It was a very confusing time to mature in: Presidents being murdered, civil rights, drugs, the Vietnam War, men landing on the moon. Luckily I learned to surf and joined the then small tribe of surfers. Say what you want, but back then chasing the Endless Summer looking for perfect waves made much more sense to me than hiding under my desk waiting for nuclear warfare…Still Does. Humans still seem to be on an insane course of hastily self-destruction, but the surfs good.

Like many mixed up kids going through this cultural upheaval, I tuned in, dropped out and joined the counter culture movement of the 1960’s. We started to figure out that you could not exponentially increase the population, pollute the environment, while developing an economy based on materialism, consumerism and war on our isolated planet with limited resources. The math said that sometime in the middle of the 21st century, humans were going to have serious problems….Hello 21st century. Most people still have a feeling that something’s gotta give: Jesus will come back, or the 7th Imam, or UFOs will land. When we finally figure out we are on our own, it will probably be too late.

As the stress from these man-made problems increases, more people will go into survival mode and the social contract that holds society together will begin to crack. The last article touched on the growing gap between the haves and have-nots: how the legal system and social safety net doesn’t work for many poor people anymore. We are now beginning to experience the effects of those problems first hand, and it ain’t pretty for many….. Including me.

Traditional sources of help from our tribe members is becoming less of an option for many deprived people. When I became homeless I found that I had no family, friends, or community I could depend on. This is true for most of the homeless I meet. The stories are very different, but strikingly similar. For whatever reason, the basic family, friends, and community support structure is now missing for a growing number of people. When these people get into financial, medical or other trouble there is no one to help them but limited government and non-profit “programs”. These programs can only meet a small portion of the needs of the quickly growing poor and homeless population caused by our failing economic, social and family structure. These programs are also ineffective and not popular with the taxpayers who fund them. The safety net is inefficient like the conservatives say and underfunded like the liberals say.

I used to have a great support structure, but over the years it has wither away to nothing. The reasons are complex and I don’t really understand much about why it happened. It seems that most people, including myself, are caught up in this unstainable race to work, consume, and escape as fast as we can. Much of this “programming” comes from mass media, mostly electronic. The media teaches us to work hard; so we can buy the consumer products we are trained to need; while escaping the stress of this unfulfilling lifestyle with the wide variety of distractions and addictions our society offers. Most of the time we are so busy working, consuming, and escaping we don’t have a moment to really think about why we are doing it. Life is a blur unless you fall off the cliff. Then you have lots of time to think…But it’s too late.

Finding time to actually help people in need is even harder. Everyone justifies what they are doing using different reasoning and beliefs, much of it taught to them by mass media. What people say is important in life is now similar to public relations “talking points”. What one actually spends most of their time doing is usually not what they say is important. Again, our hypocrisy is not really thought about, and usually justified by some lame-ass excuse.

The key to finding out what is really important to us is the time and energy we spend doing it. The average time spent sleeping has declined by over an hour in the last sixty years. This overall loss of sleep has been shown in studies to cause many types of physical, mental and emotional problems. In the meantime, the average time spent in front of an electronic screen a day has increased from none to over five hours. We spend more time watching TV and social networking than we do hanging out with family and friends. Watching TV with someone and posting on Facebook doesn’t count.

There are only so many hours in a day and we have to choose what/who to leave in and what/who to leave out. Most people spend very little time helping people because they feel they have more important things to do. Again, if it is your job to help others it doesn’t count. We have become a self-centered, narcissistic, me-culture that only cares about societal problems when it pertains to their interest. Many people don’t have a clue what is going on around them, unless it affects them directly. Falling off the cliff into homelessness forces one to examine the world around them in a whole new way. What is truly important becomes apparent when sitting at the bottom of the cliff with no friends or family willing to throw you a lifeline.

I found out how alone I was the hard way. At first my best friend let me keep a few boxes at his house and allowed me to stay there for a couple of days. Then came the lies and excuses all homeless people hear. I need the spare rooms for people coming over; my girlfriend doesn’t want you staying here, I’m broke, etc. This was a friend I’d been REAL close to for 35 years and helped out a lot. Now he’s almost sixty with a young girlfriend and doesn’t want someone around who knows his real nasty secrets. The same thing has happened with a few other close friends whose kids were getting older or found religion. Hint: The reason most of the people in the Thanksgiving photos are smiling is because their stoned.

So my friend tells me to go stay with my father, my father tells me to go stay with my friend. Everyone want you to get help, just not from them. No one wants to believe that there is no one else to help you. They think you’re lying when you say you have nothing after being so successful. I can’t blame them because I did the same thing when I was on top of the cliff. Maybe it’s Karma or some other force I don’t understand. All I know is this way of thinking was not common when I was younger. People helped each other out and I have lots of proof of that. We called it “Aloha Kokua, Mahalo Bumbai”: or “help me now, it will come back to you later”.

I understand people change and get older. I’d stopped seeing many of my old friends because I was busy chasing my own golden ring. Real friendship that you can depend on is one of the casualties of this brave new world. Being friends on Facebook is not the same. At the bottom of the cliff there is no Facebook. It requires a hard core friend to help you out when you’re sick, broke, depressed and suicidal.

The forming of tribes at the beginning of civilization is what allowed humans to flourish in this planet’s very unstable environment. When natural disasters and hard time come, the tribe helped its members survive. Sometimes they even helped other tribes like the first Thanksgiving. The problem is when a few tribe member start using way more of the tribe’s resources than other tribe members. The planet is still an unstable place and we do still help one another when real disaster strikes. But as the tribe’s population increases and resources decrease, choices have to be made…Me or Them?

This problem is compounded when you have many tribes of vastly differing beliefs, resources, goals, and agendas competing with each other for control of the country they share. As the tribes become more polarized, violence has been the historical outcome, even in countries of laws. We see real violence between tribes flaring up all over the world in the news as the threat of new conflicts grows. The problem is we are not chucking spears anymore. We have WMD’s that can wipe out entire populations, maybe even the human species. No one wins anymore, it’s just MAD….Mutually Assured Destruction!

It is only by the grace of God or dumb luck that we have not gone MAD. But, how long will God be merciful or our luck hold out. While the excuses for conflict between tribes are usually religious, political or cultural, the real reasons are resources, economics and wealth. Can 5% of the human population continue to consume 20+% of available resources without the other 95% getting MAD? How long can one group of people fly into Maui on private jets while another lives in harsh homeless camps and Programs?

The world has changed. The well off can no longer escape the consequences of an unjust, MAD economy. For MAD does not just apply to warfare anymore. If the different tribes of humanity, big and small, don’t find a way to share the resources and take care of each other….they will all be lost.

We feel it coming. No matter what your religion, economic status, politics, culture, race, sex or any of the other things that divide the human race, we are all starting to feel the squeeze. In October of 2011 the human population of the planet earth reached 7,000,000,000. Ten years ago there were only 6,000,000,000 people on earth. Ten years from now there will be at least 8,000,000,000 of us inhabiting our little blue planet. Accompanying this population growth is an increasing demand by developing population for the resources and quality of life of the developed population. Roughly half the world’s people survive on less than $2.50 a day. The poorest 40% of the earth’s humans use around 5% of the planets natural and manmade resources while the wealthiest 20% use 76% of those same resources. That doesn’t leave much left for the 75% in the middle. At the same time the gap between the wealthiest and poorest people continues to grow. At some point the manmade and environmental strain of increasing human needs will overwhelm the fragile, interdependent human resource distribution system and cause a cascading failure in the ability of people to get the resources they need to survive…..Doomtime.

Because of electronic media and other forms of communication, the poorest half of the world’s people are keenly aware of the quality of life the well- off have. The poor are demanding the clean water, abundant food, waste disposal, housing, electricity, private transportation and other modern ways of living that the smaller, richer, human tribes take for granted, and are fighting to maintain.

For full disclosure, I live in Hawaii and therefore have the quality of life of the upper 5%, yet by Hawaii standards I’m very poor. My toilet flushes, my water is hot, and if I was free to drink beer, it would be cold. We do not want to live like the majority of the people on this planet even though we realize how artificial, unsustainable and fragile our current lifestyle is. Just our/my hypocritical human nature.

We know that there are not enough natural and manmade resources available for all of mankind to live like the richest 5% of people do, not to mention the massive environmental damage that would cause, even President Obama has said that. All of our technological, ecological, scientific and political advances cannot come close to keeping pace with quality of life demands of a quickly growing human population. One way or another, by the turn of this century, human population and quality of life will be limited by availability of natural and manmade resources as well as manmade and natural environmental changes.

Trying to predict exactly when, why, how and the extent of this coming event, which I call "doomtime" is very difficult and in some ways unimportant. Up until the 20th century, most human prediction of the future was based on religious beliefs. I don’t think that supernatural events like Jesus or the 7th Imam returning are probable. Nor do I consider it probable that aliens will land or computers will take over the planet. Yet I know that ANYTHING is possible. What I consider probable is that human nature and events will continue to change as it has throughout human history. To me, “doomtime” will be a unique human historical event like World War 2 or the fall of Rome. Like the people living in the modern cities of London, Berlin, Tokyo, Hiroshima, and others in 1935, no one can completely predict, or even imagine, what will happen in the next 10 years. But the numbers don’t lie. At some point in the near future humans will have to change the way they live…Willingly or unwillingly.

Reality is what exist without you. No matter how hard you believe you can walk through the wall next to you, YOU CAN’T. That is reality. Just because one believes something is real, does not make it real: it either is or it isn’t real. Humans are going to have to start dealing with reality, not their beliefs and Illusions of it if we are to survive as a species. If Jesus comes or the flying saucers land, fine. But we can’t plan our future on things we don’t know for sure. The politics, economics, religions, education and culture of the past centuries has to change if we are to survive beyond the 21st century. It is not a choice, but math.

I, and others, are already being negatively affected by the reality of 21st century math. I hope to shake others out of their bubble before it burst like mine. You can’t say you weren’t warned. My next article/chapter will be about how my bubble burst and I became the “Bebop Man”

Copyright Sanford L. Hill 2014

The Bebop Man

A year ago all the talk of shutdowns, deficits, wars, “takers” and “job creators, was just background news to me: static noise that didn’t affect me. My life was not perfect, in fact I bitched a lot about how bad I had it back then. Little did I know I was running strait toward a high cliff in the fog. First the Melanoma, then the government shutdown, finally homelessness. Like many people, I was totally unprepared mentally and physically for the assault. In hindsight there are many things I could have done differently. Would it had made any difference? Who knows, maybe it’s just karma, chaos theory, destiny, or plain bad luck. Then the shit really hit the fan. I had some kind of mini-stroke that gave me my first ambulance ride and put me in the hospital for the first time in my life. I still don’t remember anything until I woke up in the emergency room. I was lucky (?) I had the stroke close Maui Memorial hospital, the ambulance got to me quickly. The medical test showed I didn’t have any permanent physically damage, but I felt confused and dazed: I knew something serious had happened to me.

It’s hard to explain the incredible stress being homelessness places on the mind and body. It is especially bad if you’re elderly, have other physical problems or have kids. The not knowing, hopelessness, depression, shame and just plain physical stress of not having a home take their toll rapidly. It’s kinda funny watching people chase their sillier illusions now: I know how easily tragedy can come to anyone. Like in battle one never thinks the bullet will hit them. When it does, it’s not like one thinks it will be…..It’s really fricken hurts.

I’m sure my stroke was caused by the stress of being homelessness and has made my other chronic medical problems more sever. The cost of my homelessness to society would have been much greater if I’d had a bad stroke or heart attack and lived. It would be have been cheaper for society to pay my rent than the medical cost that came from being homeless. It really makes no sense. The folks doing well get lots of help and the ones that are sucking get treated like dirt. Things can get so desperate people believe their life’s over and become suicidal: Others think, problem solved, one less person needing help.

Unfortunately, I did not have a bad stroke or heart attack. I could walk slowly, and was not totally incoherent, so the hospital sent me back to the street…. homeless. They told me I could go to the Family Life homeless shelter, but I’ll save that dreadful tale for later. I went back to living in a rental car. It’s sheer luck that I didn’t kill someone driving around in the fog of my stroke after the hospital.

I was sleeping in my little Sentra in one of the last out of the way spots were it was legal to park at night: there weren’t any No Parking signs yet. Ironically it was on top of a seaside cliff with spectacular views of Haleakala and the sunset. The Humpback whales had not arrived in force yet so the point was pretty deserted except for a few other homeless sleeping in their cars off and on, and a few local fishermen parking their cars to fish or dive from the coastline below. Like many spots on Maui, this place has been fished out for years.

Someone had moved a large boulder blocking the dirt road, which allowed me to squeak by up to an old gravel pit at the end of the road. The place was completely trashed with litter that kept many people from coming up there. Locals had learned a while ago that if you trashed a scenic place, less tourist would go there: better a peaceful messy place than a noisy clean spot full of tourist. Those are the types of choices we have to make now.

It was strange being on the edge of this dazzling cliff eating poki and sushi watching the green flash as the sun slipped into the ocean, while at the same time subsisting at the bottom of the metaphorical cliff of homelessness. The gray area of what this meant in my life was staggeringly wide.

The real bottom of my metaphorical cliff could be reached by jumping off the four story high literal cliff I was standing on. I looked over the edge and thought about jumping every night: my Oxycodone would make it painless. But the magnificent beauty of the place kept me from taking the final plunge: I was very confused. I wanted to die in a fantastic place, but the grandeur of the place held me back just enough.

I knew I could not afford to rent a car for long, so I went and checked out the Ka Hale a Ke Ola (KHAKO) homeless “resource” center located in Wailuku. Their motto “Ending the Cycle of Homelessness” sounded good. But when you think about it, KHAKO doesn’t have the power to raise the minimum wage, control rent prices, tax the well off, or any of the real causes of homelessness.

KHAKO is by far the largest homeless facility on Maui and seem fairly nice. It’s easy to find next to the Maui Correctional facility (Prison). In fact part of KHAKO used to be the Maui jail before the new prison was built. There were older two story wood apartment buildings set in a sea of orderly mowed grass surrounded by a high chain link fence like many low income housing projects on Maui. It didn’t look like a homeless shelter from the road. Just going to a homeless shelter was shameful for me: it really hit me how far down I’d fallen. The high razor wire fence separating the prison and KHAKO made me shiver and left no doubt that things could get even more dreadful.

The main KHAKO office is nice, bright, corporate looking with large framed prints hanging on the off white walls. I could see a nice conference room with a big table and lots of swivel chairs, a few private offices and lots of low gray cubicles. Scurrying around the office are well dressed, polite, professional looking people. It kind of reminds me of a business or government office. I’m greeted by a cordial local lady sitting behind an orderly reception desk. I feel shame telling her I’m homeless and looking for the homeless shelter. She courteously informs me that I need to go to the operations office where they do homeless intake. I thank her and headed for the operations office. This is not so bad I think in my stroke filled fog. This seems like a place I could get some help. But I wonder what the catch is: there’s always a catch when something seems too good to be true.

The KHAKO operations office located right next to the main office entrance brings me back to reality. It looks like what I imaged a prison office would. It’s small, dreary, no nice painting on the walls with solid wood doors instead of the nice glass door to the main office, like the back door where poor people enter. The utilitarian room with lots of procedure manuals, clip boards and record binders neatly placed on old shelves seemed like a place you’d end up for doing something wrong.

I found a couple of clean cut, military looking guys with “Operations” on the back of their green t-shirts leaning back in their swivel chairs behind two old wooden desk. Little did I know then now much I’d be seeing those “Operations” t-shirts in the coming months.

Lee, the head of Operations, and Wayne both looked like they could play prison guards in a movie. They were friendly and had that “I don’t care what your problem is, you’re going to follow our rules” look about them. Looking back, I realize that I was just another “client” and they had seen a lot of messed up people walk through those doors. I’ve come to learn that the staff at KHAKO consider us lucky to be there, instead of lucky we’re providing them with a job. Don’t get me wrong, KHAKO is one of the better homeless shelters in America, which is not saying much. It’s like finding the best plantation to be a slave on in the 1800’s.

Wayne begins filling out paper work I need to apply for the KHAKO “program”: “programs” are about paper work. He explained it was a “program” not a shelter. I didn’t get the difference or really understand what a “program” was until later. All I wanted was a place off the street and didn’t care what it was called.

I had to give them permission to do a background check; Get my doctor to fill out a form showing all drugs I used and why, violating HIPPA privacy laws; and submit to a drug and alcohol screening test, which I’d never done in my life. When you get accepted to the “program” you have to sign away control of your life and many of your civil rights to stay there. The only difference between me and the KHAKO staff was I was too poor to afford rent.

Wayne began questioning me about what I had been doing for the month I’d been homeless. I told him I was living in a rental car, staying with friends, and had a stroke the week before. The stroke part went over his head. He said “so you’ve been beboping around Maui staying at the beach and with friends” like I was having fun. He probably thought I was stoned because I was still in a fog recovering from the stroke and not thinking or speaking clearly. Most people think the homeless are just beboping around having a good time not working, doing drugs, and getting drunk. I don’t know any local homeless who are having a good time, and if they do get high it is usually to escape the shame of being homeless or other problems.

So Wayne gives me a form that my doctor has to fill out listing ALL the prescriptions I have and why I have them. He tells me I have to pass a urine drug test and alcohol breath test before I can have a bed, shower and eat. I didn’t know alcohol was illegal and had never taken a drug test before. I think everyone should have to past a piss test before they can go home and eat: Lots of people would lose their homes and jobs but we would really reduce the deficit and drug/alcohol problem.

I decided that I’d be better off dead and left KHAKO to kill myself.

Most people have this image of the homeless just cruising around living off the government and having a great time. Many think the poor should just get a slave wage job, which is not even close to enough to provide basic shelter, food and the cost of having a job. Right wing folks believe the poor should be forced to work for the scraps the government provides. They believe that we (they) can no longer afford to pay the cost of government helping the sick, elderly and impoverished.

They’re right: our country can’t afford to pay trillions of dollar for unnecessary wars, financial bailouts, and tax breaks/subsides for the wealthy, while taking care of the needy. Why do we give billions of dollars in aid to other countries while Americans sleep in the bushes? Because we have no shame.

Hard choices do have to be made, we can’t afford to have it all. We have to understand there is a direct link from the homeless in our streets to the war in Afghanistan, foreign aid and government subsidies to large corporations. Homelessness could be eliminated for a fraction of what it cost us to fight wars, donate to other nations, and give money to profitable businesses. All of us elect the politicians that make these choice: It is all of our shame.

I went up to a friend’s house and told him about my KHAKO experience. He laughed: he has the same false impressions about homelessness and coined the name “bebop man”. He lives in a big house on 40 acres that he inherited: He’s always whining about how bad he has it working as a well-paid carpenter. Fact is he made most of his money dealing drugs. Like many well off, he doesn’t see the silver spoon hanging around his neck. He doesn’t care whether I live or die: If I die I take a lot of secrets to the grave.

The stereo types and misconceptions about being homeless need to be corrected. Anyone who thinks being poor and homeless is easy has never been poor or homeless. Besides being driven to poverty by the well off, the persecution of the homeless is now supported by many middle class people. They have been offended by the displaced living on the sidewalks and in parks. The news shows police and city sanitation workers proudly throwing what little the homeless have into garbage trucks as they “clean up” society. It all looks so legal, organized and necessary: I’ll bet the Germans thought the same thing about the Nazi “programs” in the 1930’s.

Like the Nazis, our government has great public relations people who give the public an untrue picture of what causes homelessness, who the homeless are, and how they are being treated by our society. The media and politicians just tell the people what they want to hear. We believe the lies because the truth will cost us, in time, money and shame.

But when the poor are sleeping in one’s front yard, taking over the parks and beaches, society will have to do something. The questions is how will we handle the escalating problems of the poor, handicapped and elderly with a system that is broken?

The government PR person says there are beds at the homeless shelter, but never goes into what freedoms the dispossessed have to give up to get them. While the news investigates how incompetent management of homeless programs is costing taxpayers millions, they never investigate the suffering these underfunded, ineffective programs are causing to the ones that have no voice. The news media has no shame in exploiting the problems of homelessness for ratings.

So instead of making homeless programs more humane and effective, the government and NGO’s cut homeless funds and services while blaming each other for the problems. How can we trust the same politicians and government agencies that created these bungling programs to fix them and come up with something better? The people who lose the most from uneconomical homeless programs are the indigent not the taxpayers. The little that is being done is taken away from THEM because the people who are entrusted to fund and take care of the needy are incompetent or even corrupt.

Think about it, really think about it. Everyone pays to care for the unfortunate through taxes, one way other another. I still pay taxes every time I buy something….4.1%. Do we really think the people trusted with running the show, taking care of the problems, and planning for the future, are doing a good job? More and more people are realizing that the social care system we are using has some serious faults that are only going to deteriorate into unpleasantness….for everyone.

We already can’t use the beaches in the evenings, because the parks are locked at 7pm and there is no parking along the road outside to keep the homeless from sleeping in cars after the parks close. No more night fishing, moonlight walks or camping at the beach. How do you put price on those lost activities? To me they’re worth more than Xboxes, shopping, or the other inane things we are being programmed to do instead. And it’s only going to get nastier as the number of poor and homeless increase and they become more obnoxious and violent. They, like me, have nothing to lose.

Even I’ve had those Ainokea (I no care) thoughts. If I’m going to kill myself, why not make a difference? I could easily fill up some bottles with gasoline, make fire bombs, and throw them in the Four Seasons Hotel entrance. I bet that would get their attention. The local news media, even national news media, would ask all kind of questions about why I did it. They’d say I was a crazy, old, homeless terrorist who doesn’t care about innocent people getting hurt. They’d be right, that’s what extreme poverty and homelessness does to people. We are the modern “Les Miserables”, and we all know now that ended for the wealthy French…”Off with their heads”.

So let’s say I did go nuts and fire bombed something and survived not getting killed by security, the police, or myself: remember I was going to commit suicide anyway. I’d be locked up for the rest of my life with disagreeable people, no privacy, my rights taken away, eating dinner looking at razor wire fences. Not much different from my life now at the KHAKO homeless prison shelter. Ok, prison would be harsher I guess, never been. But would it be more uncomfortable for a 63 year old man than living on the street? Don’t answer if you’ve never lived on the street.

It would cost society (you) 10s of thousands of dollars to prosecute me and over $30,000.00 a year to keep me in prison: what’s the point? I was living on 14-15 thousand a year not bothering anyone when I became homeless, half as much as it would cost just to keep me in prison. I’m sure it’s costing more that 14-15 grand a year in welfare, food stamps, homeless programs and medical expenses right now to keep my miserable ass alive. Unless you’re going to just shoot people like me, someone is going to have to pay for the effects of our countries economic and social failure that has put me, and many others, out on the street. And please don’t give me that moral hazard crap as the affluent buy condos on the beach with bailout money and other government handouts.

So I figured the best thing for me, my family, friends and society was to off myself, bite the bullet, end it all, and commit hara-kiri. It just made sense. No one depended on me, would come looking for me, miss me: I mean, I had a great life, why suffer now. I would simply head for the light, and feel the love that all the people who die and come back write about. Sounded so nice and peaceful. A way to handle all of my problems of homelessness.

I will never attempt suicide, the human body is easy to kill. Jump off something over four stories high, step in front of a fast moving bus, shoot yourself, hang yourself, its all been done before. I decided to go the Heath Ledger route. Oxycodone and Ambien, both of which I have plenty of because of my sleep disorders. Just have to grind them up and take them all with some nice tequila fruit drink watching the green flash on a tropical shore line cliff.

Off course suicide may be frowned on by the Gods or creator of this game of life. There may be bad consequences for taking your own life as if you don’t want to exist. Instead of moving on to a better place, you just might not exist at all. That would be a drag. Of course that may be the way it is anyway. I thought hard about doing myself in. In the end there is no answer. Nobody really knows what happen when you die. Some people believe they do, but believing something does not make it true.

As I write this many months later, the lady in the room above me is flipping out because she has been evicted for having a loud fight with her husband and has thirty minutes to leave. She is standing on her porch cursing everyone, especially KHAKO. She is evoking the name of Jesus and rebuking the place at the top of her lung. She is clearly having a bad day.

KHAKO’s policy is to call the cops and throw her out on the street. I can hear the untrained KHAKO staff trying to talk with her and get her to leave. She is finally led past my door by the police, her arms outstretched like she being crucified. She and her husband are chemical dependent, born again Christians with physical and mental disabilities. She was taken away in handcuffs.

Later I’m told she was drunk. She didn’t seem real drunk to me. I wonder how many other drunk couples were fighting with each other at the same time on Maui. Just think, you’re a little drunk arguing with whomever and the cops come and immediately evicted you from your home. No trial, no eviction notice, just hit the street: We could end a lot of family disturbances if we did that to everyone. Of course we’d have more drunk, angry, homeless people wandering the streets. It just seems to me that calling ones rental units a program should not place them above the law…but it does.

I know that being homeless on Maui is no were near as bad as it is in the rest of the world. I am thankful for the help I’ve gotten. But should I have rights that everyone else enjoys taken away from me just because I’m poor? It’s not my fault that the economy has been rearranged and screwed up by the powers that be. The poor and homeless are being told to ride in the back of the economic bus, or more realistically walk behind it. We are no longer segregated by race, we are now segregated by economic class. It seems that equal rights for gays are more important than equal rights for the poor in our country. I’d certainly rather have the rights of a rich gay person than any kind of needy person.

The incident today brings me back to thoughts of suicide. Why go through with all this misery that could get even more miserable….quickly. In my next article I’ll look back on my dark night of the soul. It’s called “Death, God, and Other Choices”. It’ll will be light hearted look at the dark questions one must face when they become homeless and have no hope left…Cheers.

God, Death and Other Choices

It’s obvious I didn’t kill myself. It turned out to be much harder than I thought. I guess I truly never reached the end of my rope…and let go. There were many times I got real close, but just could not get myself to drink the poison for one reason or another. Looking back I realize that those were times of deep introspection and observation of the reality I existed in. I had missed the signs of how bad things had gotten for me personally as the distressed world I lived in became even more desperate. But, it was what I didn’t know that saved me. It really seems that it’s what you don’t know that is important in life. Because what you don’t know can change what you think you know.

After my first encounter with KHAKO, I became really depressed and more convinced that I had nothing to live for. KHAKO seemed like a step above the country club prisons all the white collar criminals go to. I wasn’t an ex-con, didn’t need treatment or a “program”: All I needed was a place to stay as Maui charged into the Christmas holiday season. I still had a rental car for another five days and food stamps, lots of food stamps.

It had taken over three months to get my food stamps, so I got like a $1,000 dollars’ worth of back food stamps all at once, plus $319 dollars more a month. I could never use all my food stamps each month because you can only use them to buy certain foods and I’m a good shopper. It would make much more sense to allow needy folks to buy hygiene stuff like toilet paper, tooth paste and soap with food stamps. I let a friend and his girlfriend go on a $250 dollar health food shopping spree in exchange for $80 cash to get necessities I couldn’t buy with food stamps. It was probably illegal, but desperation has always been the primary cause of crime. Funny how well off people who don’t need food stamps will use them if they can get a great deal. The desperate poor have to sell food stamps for cheap all the time just to survive.

And I was/am desperately poor. I knew no one was going to help me out by then. You’d think Christmas was the time of year that friends, family and the community would really rally round the less fortunate. Sure they’ll give some food to the food bank, make a donation to some NGO that will use it for Christmas bonuses, or pray for you. But no one will actually give you a place to stay, even if they have one. I hope God has a special Christian homeless shelter in Hell ready for the well off that disregard and use the poor.

So I was looking hard for a place to die peacefully. A nice comfy hotel bed. A scenic ocean cliff at sunset with the whales jumping. Someplace tranquil to depart this realm and go wherever you go when you die. That was one of the problems: no one really knows where you go when you die: if anywhere. I don’t mine nothingness, but I worried that committing suicide might affect what happens to you after you ma’ke die dead. I don’t think it should, but I’ve learned that what I think doesn’t really matter: what is IS and I don’t really know for sure what IS. I can’t help it, I’m just a stupid human.

As I got ready to become another one of Maui’s “unattended deaths”, I thought about it too much: I procrastinated. Like so many things in my life, I procrastinated until the last minute when I really had to make a choice. They say “procrastination is the death of things”, in my case it was the death of death.

Finally it came down to my last night with a rental car and no money or alternative but submitting to a homeless shelter/prison. I was too old to live on the street or in the bushes. I was staying in the car at a beautiful ocean point next to a lighthouse not far from the nice condo I lived at in Maalaea Harbor a few months before. The Humpback whales were out in force just off shore and the sunset in the Au’au channel was more awesome than usual. I had tequila and enough ground up oxycodone/Ambien to easily put me away for good, no attempted suicide. It was now or never….so I thought.

I know a few people are reading this thinking, “what a whiny, self-centered, spoiled little bitch”. I also know compared to how most humans live that I have it relatively good, even in poverty. No slaughter, famine, pestilence, or disaster ever happens on Maui, but that’s normal to me. That’s why everyone wants to come here. Unfortunately, it’s a very small island. Like many people in first world countries, I don’t want, or know how, to deal with third world hardship.

I mean, why suffer? Many people believe that suffering in just a normal part of life. Maybe, but why do some humans have to suffer much more than others? From observation we know that suffering is not some random act of God. It has much more to do with control and allocation of resources. If you have medical care, shelter, food and other basic, chances are you will suffer less. If you have a Lear Jet, chances are life will be fun, or at least it should be.

We learned in the 1960’s that it’s really only ignorance, greed and power that prevents humans from living peacefully together, helping each other out: remember “Peace and Love”. Poverty is a choice humans make, especially the humans that control things. As I look around Maui, I know there is more than enough for everyone’s basic needs. The same is probably true for the rest of the planet.

So far my life has been interesting, productive and pretty fun. But with no resources and lots of problems the future looked bleak. Without a miracle, my life was heading down hill fast and miracles are a very long shot. It all made rational sense to me, just as many other stupid things humans do make rational sense to them. I figured since death can come at any time, why not go out on top. At least I’m not hurting anyone and life’s just no fun anymore. But maybe life’s not supposed to be fun…bummer.

So I snorted some oxi, took a sleeping pill, drank some tequila smoothie and lay down on a funky, old futon on the top of a shear four story cliff with the Pacific Ocean washing over the rocks below. I had the place to myself: all the tourist whale watchers had gone back to their concrete caves and there were no locals fishing, or other homeless. It was one of the few secluded places left were you could sleep in a car and not get ticketed or chased out…. at least tonight.

When I first moved to Maui in the early 70’s, you could drive up to most of Maui’s coastline. Where the Four Seasons and other resort hotels are now were empty beaches on a dirt roads: anyone could camp there for as long as they wanted, it was fun. There were no homeless local people. As I lay there I wondered why I’m the one who’s lost everything and is getting ready to kill himself. It’s not my choice: I want a suite at the Four Seasons…that’s my choice!

What did the local people like me gain by allowing Maui to be turned into “Mauiland”…Modern day glass beads in the form of smart phones. I mean, are we really better off, more secure, happier? I’m obviously not, it doesn’t seem like many people are. Of course most people on Maui have no idea what we’ve lost and are too brainwashed to care. They are busy enjoying the Last Party before the bill is due.

As the warmth of the drugs and alcohol kicked in I realized I’d had a really good run. I’ve never had any life altering health problems until the last year. I had been loved and unloved; rich and poor; famous and unknown; all while living in the most beautiful islands on the planet, surfing lots of bitchen waves. Life had been pretty fun, but it seemed the good part had come to an end. The parties over and I don’t have money for the bill, or any friends to cover me.

I had missed out on a few things in life like war, snow and raising kids. But compared to what most humans endure in life, I’d been quite lucky. The hard times were short and the good times long. Of course it’s all relative, many people would give their left nut for my hard times. It seemed to me that I’d used up all my good luck and really didn’t want to find out what suffering is all about. Might as well take the easy way out before it gets worse. I really didn’t care what anyone else thought…It was my life. If my jumping off a cliff to escape the one I’d fallen off didn’t hurt anyone else…who cares? NO ONE.

The coastal point I was laying on had not changed since I moved to Maui over forty years ago. Its old lighthouse still flashed a warning to mariners, who still insist on hitting the reef off shore. With all the modern GPS’s, sonar and computers, a large whale watch boat still took out part of its hull a few weeks ago. People misjudge warnings no matter how clear they are to them…I know I missed many.

Still….the moon is high, Maui’s Fishhook is setting, and waves splash gently over the rocks below. I can even hear the whales breathing just off shore. This would be as good a place as any to kick it. Maybe a little bit later when the moon is setting would be a good time to die. I’d pop out of my body, go talk to the whales, and find out where you go when you bite the big one. Just lay back and enjoy the last moments. It will all be over soon.

I was awakened by a bunch of local kids partying in the gravel parking lot were my car was. They couldn’t see me on the edge of the cliff. They were drinking, toking and had the rap booming. Kids having fun just like I used to do at this spot back in the day. Except they don’t know doomtime is just around the corner, or maybe they sense it too. I feel sorry for the kids and their kids who are going to bear the brunt of the coming karma. The peace and love generation is dyeing swiftly having their dreams of change outwitted by the more ominous parts of human nature.

It was still a beautiful night, the moon setting timelessly in the ocean: I had forgotten to kill myself…again. I didn’t want to die listening to gangster boom, boom, boom. Some nice Hawaiian music would’ve be nice. But it wasn’t meant to be: the kids partied until just before dawn. The moment had passed. Procrastination had not been the death of me again. Or maybe there was something more to do with my life: a destiny, a plan, a reason I’m not dead. Something I don’t know about.

The clouds over Haleakala lit up like it was erupting. Another spectacular sunrise on Maui as the early-bird whale watcher flocked to the point. The Whales were already off shore waiting to get chased around by a fleet of tourist cattle boats hoping to get close to a mother and her calf. Another day of fun was beginning on Mauiland and I was going to have to turn in my rental car and go to a homeless shelter.

Into the dumpster went all the stuff that made living in a car possible: futon, cooler: anything that didn’t fit into my backpack, nylon dive bag and Walmart shopping bag. All standard equipment for being homeless. There was no going back to living in a car, it was the bus from now on and that was not cheap without a bus pass…I didn’t have the money to buy one. It was just before Christmas and I was hanging on by a tread. Maybe Jesus would have some mercy on me, or maybe this was as much mercy as I was going to get. I do have a photo of me being baptized in 1984 just in case Jesus is real.

All around me the Christmas spirit was going strong. Shoppers looking for the best deals as businesses discounted their prices 50% to 70% trying to survive the year. I watched it all from the bus window heading back to the Ka Hale a Ke Ola (KHAKO) homeless “resource” center. KHAKO told me they would admit me as an emergency “Client” when I was there last. I just had to turn the form my doctor filled out listing my prescriptions, past an alcohol breath test, and drug piss test…or so I thought.

Being admitted to a homeless program is a shameful slap in the face that reminds you how far you’ve fallen. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, I just wanted a place to sleep. It’s not like checking into a hotel. Lee and Wayne were still behind their old desk in the operations room leaning back and smiling. I don’t think they even remembered me.

Unfortunately, my doctor did not fill out the confusing prescription drug form right, and they would not admit me until he did. They also told me they didn’t have any beds right now, which I know now was not true. They always have at least one empty bed in the dormitory. It was my first encounter with the “no mercy rule”: There is no mercy if the rules are not followed no matter whose fault it is and the people who make the rules are judge and jury.

They told me to go stay at the “Family Life Center” in Kahului, the only other homeless shelter on Maui for now. They knew after a week at Family Life I’d do anything to stay at KHAKO.

By the time I took the bus and walked to the Family Life Center, it was after a few minutes after four o’clock. The Family Life Center office closes exactly at four. I asked the shelter workers as they hurried to their nice cars if they could make an exception….No Mercy, this was a Christian shelter and this was Christmas. I kept thinking “what would Jesus have done”.

One nice lady told me I had to come back after eight o’clock tomorrow morning. I told her I was too tired to walk anywhere and I was just going to stay on the sidewalk outside the center until morning. This sidewalk seemed as cold and hard as any sidewalk. She told me that was fine. Not offing myself the night before seemed like a big mistake now. Maybe I’d do it later tonight right here in front of the homeless shelter, I was ready. I looked up at the 35 foot black metal cross in front of the locked church sanctuary next to me…I didn’t feel that the God I’d read about in the Bible was hanging around here.

It would be another surreal night for my first homeless Christmas. It is so bizarre sitting alone on a sidewalk across the street from the biggest shopping mall on Maui and watching everyone else rushing to get their last minute Christmas shopping done. They would drive by me without even a second glance. I wondered how many of them I’d known, been friends with, or worked with, over my many years on Maui. It was REAL depressing knowing that not one person on the island cared whether I lived or died enough to help me. I’m sure some are even glad I ended up like this. I even made a syndical “Merry Christmas” sign on a piece of cardboard. I don’t think anyone got it. But, I guess there was no one on Maui that I cared about either.

I watched the dejected homeless slowly materialize as the gates to the shelter were unlocked. If you are a women, especially a woman with kids, you got treated much better: A hot meal, shower and bed in an upstairs dormitory. If you were a male you got treated worse than many people treat their pets. Lucky this was Maui: it was cool, not cold outside and it wasn’t raining….Yet.

After it got dark a couple of homeless women snuck me some pumpkin pie over the fence. Finally someone felt sorry for me… it didn’t last long. Around 10 o’clock the Family Life Center night manager showed some Christian spirit and told me I had go somewhere else or they’d call the cops. I moved in front of the church sanctuary next store, which had been turned into a church for Micronesians immigrants. They were having a church service.

A young Micronesian came out and sat by me…I thought he was going to try and convert me. I told him what had happened to me and I could see he was really upset that Christians would treat an old, sick, local guy so callously…But he wasn’t surprised. He was working 2 jobs living in a studio with his wife and four kids. He had been kicked out of KHAKO and knew first hand there was no mercy for the poor.

He brought me out some hot chicken stew and bread that really tasted good. He also let me stay under the roof in the church entrance after everyone left…Just as it started to rain. It was ironic that the only person showing mercy on Christmas was an immigrant. His kindness probably kept me from killing myself. It’s amazing how powerful a simple act of compassion can be.

The Family Life Center (FLC) is a hardcore overnight “wet” shelter. That meant you could come in plastered on whatever your poison was as long as you didn’t bother anyone. The place used to be a small Christian school and is owned by the First Assembly of God Church who’d formed a non-profit and got into the homeless business.

I was totally defeated and didn’t care what happened to me after spending the night not sleeping on the concrete. Like KHAKO, Family Life has a nice front office with matching furniture, framed pictures on the walls and Christmas treats in a bowl. They have the same low walled cubicles for the staff who were pleasant and welcoming as I walked in at 8:01 in the morning. They probably had a good night’s sleep.

I numbly filled out the forms without even really reading them. I met with an overweight outreach worker named Joey. Joey explained all the rules as I nodded my head and signed papers. I could’ve be agreeing to kill someone for all I knew. He told me I’d have to meet with my case worker when she came back from vacation in a couple of weeks…must be nice. He actually told me that this was a business and they didn’t do anything they weren’t required to do (paid to do). So, no I could not use the phone or leave anything there until they opened a 5:00 in the afternoon…no exceptions, no mercy

I also could not hang out within 200 feet of the shelter until 5:00pm. I could not sit on the public sidewalk, on the public Library lawn, or at the Foodland supermarket across the street. They didn’t want Family Life to look like a homeless shelter, bad for business. Most people think this is not a big deal, because most people don’t have to carry everything they have with them were ever they go. Lugging 40+ pounds around is a lot harder at my age. It was my first taste of the rights I’d have to give up for a place to sleep. There is no mercy or consideration of individual circumstances. Rule are the rules, unless the staff broke them, which they did when they wanted to.

At 5:00pm I returned dog tired hoping there would not be more than 25 men waiting for the shelter to unlock the gates. Homeless who had spent last night there got in first. It was again surreal sitting on a wooden bench inside a high chain link fence next to an unused basketball court waiting to be admitted with the other vagrants. I could see the traffic jam of people trying to get into the shopping mall for the holidays. Most didn’t even realize this was a homeless shelter, most didn’t give a rat’s ass.

At 6:00 o’clock the gates were locked and our names check against a list by the tattooed night manager in the “Jesus Loves Me” t-shirt to make sure we had all been approved. Since it is a temporary shelter, men can only stay 42 nights a year, though I know a few guys who pretty much lived there. There were all kinds of people sitting on the bench in the light rain with me. Everyone but me had been there before, they knew the drill. There were local druggies, haoles from the mainland, old men, young men, mentally disabled men, blacks, whites, browns, all with that same empty, tried look in their eyes, the same look I had. Some were wasted on who knows what. I’d heard there were fights here, but it seemed everyone just wanted a bed, shower and meal.

And that’s just what we got. I followed the crowd as they grabbed old resort pool lounge chairs and mats and place them next to the walls in an open space between the shelter building and bathrooms. When I say “open space”, I mean under the stars, not even a tarp. We were each given a sheet, blanket, towel and pillow. I was told if it started to rain to grab my mat and bedding and run into the dining room or the Micronesian church if they were not using it. I looked at the dining room full of tables and Micronesians practicing their Christmas play and wondered how that was going to work. Some guys slept inside the dining room after the tables were cleared, though there was no way everyone could do that. Most, slept outside. Lucky the ten nights I was there were mostly dry and cool, though the mosquitoes could be nasty.

It was the same drill every night: get admitted, take a shower when your name is called, eat dinner, do your chore and try to sleep. Everyone had to do a chore: wash dishes, clean the kitchen, bathrooms, dining room etc., which was all supervised by one strict night manager employee. Dinner was usually pretty good, and lots of it. I was lucky I had enough Oxycodone and sleeping pills to put me out, but not enough to kill me anymore…Until my next refill. Nothing seemed real. Every morning I woke up from a bad dream into a real bad dream.

Around 5:00 in the morning everyone got up, put their lounge chairs/ bedding way, had coffee and whatever else was around to eat. By 6:00 o’clock the place was cleaned up, gates unlocked, and everybody had to hit the streets, rain or shine, with all their stuff. Unless, you were lucky enough to have a job or were disabled, then you got a small locker: That locker was golden to a homeless person. You can’t really get a job or go very far carrying all your crap with you. Over the next few days I saw a lot of shit at The Family Life Center….Literally.

On the third night at Family Life I was taking a shower when I noticed these brown streaks coming down from the concrete vents on the top of the back shower wall. Even though my sense of smell was kinda shot from the stroke a few weeks before…something stunk. I got out, dried myself and got the night supervisor. He went to the outside of the back of the shower next to the parking lot and found someone had taken a dump on an old TV resting against the wall of the shower. They had also thrown some of the shit up into the shower air vent. It was totally gross. Almost made me puke.

The supervisor was pissed. He grabbed the broken TV with the shit on it and moved it 20 feet next to the dumpster at the entrance to the back parking lot where everyone could see it: staff, homeless, clients, visitors. Since the back parking lot is open during the day, no one knew who did it…but it smelled like revenge for something to me. I had to help hose down the dodo and clean the shower with bleach. That night I had nightmares about the shit on the TV. They left that old TV with a pile of crap on it there for next five days, just before Christmas, a reminder to everyone as to how shitty their jobs, and the homeless, were. Honest, I couldn’t make this crap up.

I was getting my prescriptions refilled the next day and was really tired of this shit, no pun intended. I planned to take all the drugs I had on Christmas eve at Family Life Center and go ask Jesus or who’s ever in charge: ‘These are your follower, your house, WTF man’. I figured at least if I died at Family Life there would be an investigation, maybe some good would come of it. Maybe it would save others from having to go through this shit…sorry can’t help it. But God wasn’t through screwing with me yet.

Early the next morning after the shit came down (last one), I was hiding out from the rain in front of the old Kahului Shopping center when a local guy cruised up on a bike. He could tell I was homeless from all the stuff I was carrying. He had also been homeless, stayed at Family Life and KHAKO; so he could relate and had his own horror stories. He had a job now and told me I should go see this lady named Lisa who ran a foundation close by that helped the homeless. Said she’d really helped him out, had internet computers and a phone I could use. I felt that little twinge of hope as the voice inside screamed “don’t believe it, just more bad choices.

It seems to me that life comes down to the choices one has. The choices for people with money are very different than the choices for people without. Some people have to decide which of their many houses they want to stay at. Others have to choose between camping in the Kiawe bush or a homeless program were they lose their civil liberties. Any choice can be a good choice or a bad choice, much of it is just dumb luck. But the types of choices we have makes a big difference in how we can play the game of life. All people should be at least be playing the same game on a level field. Right now the wealthy and the poor are playing different games on different fields.

Maybe that’s why no one cares. Football fans don’t really care about what’s happening in baseball, though this is more like the difference between shopping and basketball. Everyone lives in their own little world not realizing that we all share this lonely planet together. If you ignore reality it will come around and bit you in the ass. It was a hard lesson for me to learn: over and over and over again

In my next article, “A Hypocritical Species” I continue my homeless Christmas holiday in Mauiland looking at the difference between what people say and do. Nothing like the holidays to show the hypocrisy of mankind.

A Hypocritical Species

It’s amazing how the universal hypocritical behavior of the human species goes virtually unnoticed by most people, especially in their own actions. We have this incredible ability to rationalize and justify our own hypocritical conduct, while criticizing the similar activities done by others. We are the only species on the planet that does this. Deer don’t tell other deer to conserve the grass while they gobble it up because they arrived there first or some other such non-sense. Other species don’t take their cans to be recycled in a SUV to save the environment while helping to destroy it. The examples of our hypocrisy are everywhere, especially in the media. We are very keen on seeing it in the world around us, but blind to our own hypocritical acts. The hypocrisy of the human species is one of the main factors holding back human evolution. Just think what would happen if everyone treated everyone else like they’d want to be treated if they were in their slippers. It is an ancient, simple, idea that humans will have to master if they want to survive: Full disclosure, I’m a hypocritical human too.

One good thing about homelessness is that “the old train breaks down and you get a chance to look around” (Mahalo Jack Johnson). Many of the hypocritical things I used to do are no longer possible. I don’t feel guilty throwing a can on the side of the road because frankly I don’t give a damm anymore. It’s not hypocritical if you could care less about the society that has given you the boot. I have no more illusions of how friends, family and society are going to treat me if I become poor. I’m penniless, so I know what it’s like to not have anything. I can throw my hands in the air because I just don’t care and really mean it.

This is a dangerous situation. More people “just don’t care” because they have been disenfranchised by their society. This WILL affect the people who do care and are having a good time. This has happened throughout history and usually leads to violence, hardship, suffering and environmental derogation. In the 21st century this problem will be compounded by population growth, fragile resource systems, and increasing environmental problems. Chinese burning coal will affect Americans. Americans consumer economy does cause violence around the world. The sad thing is none of this is a secret, and the information is spun in so many directions that no one knows what’s going on.

It’s not that people don’t have good intensions, just like the folks who fly thousands of miles to go on an eco-adventure whale watching tour. The whales don’t need us polluting the upper atmosphere with jet exhaust. All we have to do for the whales to survive is stop killing them, just as all I really need is a way to afford medical care and a place to live with dignity. I don’t need dozens of people making a living off my suffering.

So I walked into the Hoo’manoa Foundation office looking for Lisa to see if she could help. My mind was full of the literal shit I’d seen in the last few days at Family Life Center. I was tired, depressed, living in a surreal world with no hope left. I looked just like a homeless person was supposed to: dirty and ragged, lugging all my stuff with me. Even if I could afford to wash my clothes, they’d just get dirty without a place to keep them.

The small homeless foundation seemed out of place on the second floor of a modern commercial building surrounded by professional businesses. I was warmly greeted by a very good looking, tall, blue eyed blonde named Lisa. We went to her bright office room cluttered with folders and books facing Kahului harbor were I told her my story. Not only did she listen, she looked up my websites on line as we talked: Lisa actually seemed interested in me. She appeared a little confused trying to figure out what turned the successful person on the website into the wreck sitting in front of her. It felt like she truly empathized with, and understood, what I was going through.

Her compassionate demeanor made me feel almost human again. Lisa had no problem looking me in the eye and I felt like we were connecting on some level. OK, I was a bit smitten, she was the first beautiful lady I’d had a real conversation with in a long time. She had this playful, confident air about her and a rocking body hiding under her professional attire. What can I say, I’m still a guy. Her kind smile began to melt my hard wall, like I’d known her for years. She reminded me of the kind of women I used to date so I felt very comfortable opening up to her: Of course I’d completely lost touch with reality, and like a stray dog that had been beat too much, just loved being told I was “kinda cute”.

I learned her non-profit was a one woman show and she was very passionate about trying to change the obscene way the homeless are being treated. It was intoxicatingly surreal finishing each other’s thoughts on how wrong homelessness was and what needed to be done. I told Lisa I was thinking about writing a book about homelessness. She seemed more concerned about my current predicament.

We were joined in her office by the good looking Chinese guy that had told me about Lisa earlier, and a single mother: both had known Lisa a while and had been clients of hers. Everyone shared their homeless horror stories and talked about how we could change things. It was very emotional, like we were destine to meet for some purpose. Lisa felt we were the nucleus of some group that was going to change things. She said they had been waiting for someone like me, very heady stuff. I thought if we could expose the way homeless are really treated to the public, things would change. Everyone agreed I was in shock from my stroke and being homeless and the first thing I had to do was stabilize my situation. They all wanted to help, but couldn’t do anything for me right now.

As I headed back to be locked up for the night at Family Live Center, fantasies flooded my mind. Maybe God had meant this to happen, maybe I’d find the love of my life, MAYBE this homeless shit would turn into a good thing. At the same time the other voice in my mind screamed I was crazy delusional. I didn’t care: the fantasy was much better than the reality. That night I dreamed about manning the homeless barricades with a bare breasted Lisa like in the French Revolution painting.

Separating illusion from reality and not doing something crazy is a real problem in the surreal homeless world. Lucky, I’d had enough intelligent, successful, kind and beautiful girlfriends to know what women like Lisa want in a relationship: at this point in my life I had none of it. But I could always dream like most poor folks do of winning the fantasy lottery. My personal fantasy was mixed with the holiday whimsy to produce a very bizarre illusion. But fantasy was the only hope I had left.

The next morning I met Lisa back at her office. It was Saturday, the weekend before Christmas. We shared a lot of personal stuff about ourselves. She was single, from New York and slightly crazy like me. I really liked her down to earth sincerity, she’d had her own hard times. It seemed like underneath her professional image she might be different enough to get me. It also appeared that we were developing a great friendship. She convinced me that things would get better, that this was just a phase, and I just had to hang in there. When she hugged me it felt like she was alone and hurting too. I just wanted to go home with her and give her the best loving she ever had, but things like that only happen in fiction. It is so much easier writing fiction because you can make it get as hopeless as you want and things still work out in the end. Life is non-fiction. I still don’t know how this book will end.

Like life, this rhetoric is non-fiction. Things are probably not going to work out the way I want. Odds are very slim that these articles will be published on a large scale, or become a best-selling book and made into a movie. I’m fairly sure I won’t get the girl in the end and live happily ever after…..I know that. You can’t write the story of your real life before it happens because no one knows what the next second will bring. The only thing we know for sure is that our story in this reality eventually ends in death. No one gets out alive and it’s only after death that we find out if there is more to our existents.

As I lay in my lounge chair under the stars at Family Life listing to all the Christmas activities going on outside the fence, it really hit home that I lived in a different world now. Who and what I was before didn’t matter anymore. I was going to be judged by who I was now: An old, broke, out of luck homeless man. I was finding out that the longer I lived in the homeless world, the harder it was to it was to break out of it back to something that resembled my former life.

I had nothing to offer anyone, especially a smart, cute, together lady. A year ago I could have made Lisa dinner, taken her out sailing, or shown her my unreal old haunts in Hana. But the guy who could do that had vanished when I fell off the cliff. Even I would think there was something seriously wrong with a female attracted to me now. The reality was I had $.63 cents in my bank account. Even I don’t respect a man with only .63 cents.

Money may not bring you happiness, but it sure increases your options. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that “money isn’t what life’s about”. I used to think that when I had enough money to live on the top the cliff. At the bottom of the cliff things are different. You won’t find desperately poor folks whining about the evils of money, or turning it down. In our society, money is essential to survival. There are many places in the world where it is not. Those people may be happy, but given the choice, they would rather live like us even if they believe we are evil. My bleak homeless life would seem great to a poor person in Africa.

I’ve always wondered what life is like for the lowliest human on the planet. It’s funny that we know what life is like for the wealthiest human, but not for the poorest. Most people know how Oprah and John Elison live on Maui, but very few people know how the impoverished like me live here. If Oprah or John want to get anything published, it happens immediately, me I probably won’t get this published unless I kill myself or throw bombs at the Four Seasons. Homeless people’s stories are depressing. They are not hosting the President’s wife or buying one of the four main islands of Maui county. A poverty-stricken life is harsh and boring.

Are people like Oprah and Elison setting a good example for the rest of humanity? I mean, you can’t be against global warming and fly to Maui on a private jet whenever you want to. I’m sure they believe they’re doing more good than harm like every other hypocrite. To me the “do good” wealthy are the most hypocritical of all. The corporations and business they own, or are paid by, are the primary cause of manmade poverty and environmental calamities. The affluent also influence most governments’ throughout the world, so they are also somewhat responsible for policies that harm people and the planet. The fact is: Most poor people do not have the individual resources to do the kind of harm to society and the planet that rich people do. I can’t even make a bomb with my $.63 cents. It’s truly hypocritical to speak out against something you profit from.

Lisa did help me out. Her foundation paid my cell phone bill, my library fine and let me keep some stuff in her office. It may not sound like much, but it meant a lot to me. More importantly she made me feel like I was a valuable person and part of a movement to change how less fortunate people are treated on Maui. Other homeless programs made me feel like I was a problem to society. Like I had done something wrong and was now worthless except as a slave wage worker. Not being important to anyone is the most miserable feeling in the world. Being important only to yourself is meaningless.

On Christmas day, after being kick out of Family Life Center at 6:00pm, I went to Lisa’s office for a small brunch. It was nice. She gave everyone a small granite like stone with a word carved into it: mine said “Dream”. To be honest I didn’t know what it meant: Dream on, you’re a dreamer, dreams come true, dreams are not real. She also gave me a ticket to see “The Hobbit” movie. JR Token was a favorite author from my youth so I escaped again for a few hours.

I wished I could of taken Lisa to the movie: as a date, not as a client. We could escape our troubles together. But the fact was: I was her client and the foundation was her job. She was paid to help me. In the end she had to choose between her job, company car and comfortable life, and associating with a radical homeless guy trying to publicly expose how homeless are really treated. She picked her survival and I don’t blame her: I probably would made the same choice in her slippers.

Hearing the gates locked at Family Life Center brought me back to reality fast. Singing “have yourselves a shitty little Christmas” in the shower pretty much summed up the mood. The human shit was still sitting on the TV next to the parking lot. The staff really didn’t want to be taking care of needy homeless people on Christmas, which seemed super hypocritical to me seeing as they all belonged to a large, thriving Frist Assembly of God church.

I had been a Christian believer for many years and helped to start many now successful churches when they were still meeting on the beach or in classrooms. More importantly, I’ve read the Bible cover to cover, like a book, many times. While much of it is hard to understand, much of it is also very clear. Passage after passage were, God, Jesus, Apostles, and others implore their follower to take care of the sick, elderly, poor and children not as their job, but as their joyful duty. They said nothing about taking care of the rich, healthy and powerful. They killed Jesus for opposing the status quo.

It seems to me that Jesus died a homeless man. If he came back today he would kick most of the Christian staff out of Family Life Center, First Assembly and other churches and turn them over to the truly needy and hurting. He would say “Hypocrites, you praise me and take my blessing for yourselves, that’s not what it’s about man, you have become like the religion I died to change. Jesus was full of love. I found none of that at Family Life Center. It was just a business and I was a client.

But that’s how humans are. No matter what their religion, politics, sex, color race or class, they all do hypocritical things that differ from what they believe. Of course they modify their beliefs to rationalize the hypocrisy, or more commonly, don’t think about it at all. Homelessness forced me to face the hypocrite I had become. How could I be angry at people for not helping me when I had been like that myself? Yeah, Yeah, I know no one’s perfect, but at least try to practice what you preach.

I came of age in the 1960’s during a brief moment in time when people questions the hypocrisy of civil rights, poverty, materialism, and a lot of other ism’s. We sang “War. What is it good for? And the answer was “absolutely nothing, say it again”. We were the first generation to realize that poverty, greed, subjugation, discrimination, pollution and other human conditions were CHOICES societies make. What we didn’t understand was the power of the ones who make those choices

The 60’s were a flash of clarity: like a lightning bolts exposing reality for a split second on a stormy night. Then the lightning pasted, the darkness returned and the storm raged on. But some of us who were in the storm can’t forget what we saw in the lightning flashes. I ran away from the storm to Maui, deciding not to participate in the insanity. I understand now that it’s a storm you can’t hid from. Like a tornado head toward you: you can’t make it go away by ignoring it, but you can move.

My poverty has brought back flashes of clarity. I no longer have video games, TV, social media or even surfing to distract me. I can see clearly now that the storm I saw in the 1960’s has gotten more intense. People hiding in shelters of Facebook, World of Warcraft, American Idol, football or shopping do not see the storm anymore. Most of the counter-culture that saw the flashes of truth in the 60’s have grown old, weak and disillusioned. They have been crushed by the overwhelming brainwashing of the idiots who have always been in power.

The younger generations have been marginalized and split into small tribes that are throwing their hands in the air, writing computer code, or thinking positive. They have been raised by hypocritical parents who sold out to blindly follow the illusions they believe in at the moment, and the kids just followed the trends. The young’uns still rebel against their parents, but their rebellion is now controlled by media forces they can’t understand or avoid. It’s sad because they are the ones that are going to catch hell when this shit storm goes critical….”Might as well be walking on the sun”

The storm I’m talking about is manmade, not natural. It is the same storm that caused Vietnam, segregation, assassination, subjugation and the other injustices we fought against in the 60’s. The storm is caused by human greed, arrogance, ignorance and delusion and is growing exponentially.

The powers that be know they can’t lose control like they did in the 60’s. They have change from segregation of races to segregation of classes, from a draft to professional warriors and subjugation is mostly done by electronic media. But injustices is still injustices. Modern media technology has allowed super players to blind people to the real destruction, suffering and change this storm is rapidly bringing. They are going to sell the illusion that they can manage these forces they don’t understand or control, for as long as they can. The super players may even be caught up in a feedback loop of their own bullshit….Drinking their own Cool-Aid

Just look at how effectively they have made protest by groups against the WTO, or Occupy Wall street inconsequential with a combination of force and media manipulation. It’s not that these technics are new, it’s that the super players have gotten much better at using them and have new mind numbing technology that didn’t exist in the 60’s. The electronic media that Marshal McCullum and Audios Huxley warned us about seems quaint compared with what we have today. Electronic media has been changing faster than our ability to understand and control it for a while now, to the point we no longer see reality clearly.

We use what we learn from the media to justify and rationalize our hypocritical behavior. If we are a right wing Christian we watch FOX news, if we are a left wing liberals we watch MSNBC and if we just don’t care we watch The Daily Show. I watch The Daily Show. Ironically, John Steward humorously points out the hypocrisies of our society while being paid by Viacom, a large multinational media corporation. I think it’s humorous to watch commercials for vehicles that cause global warming after a segment criticizing it. Kinda cancel each other out, but the show is damm funny and tries to be real.

Of course there is no cable TV, or any other type of TV, at Family Life Center. Without computer access or any other type of electronic media, I was forced back into the reality of thinking. My mind really didn’t know how to handle it for quite a while. I went through heavy withdrawals. But slowly I accepted my new reality of being poor, and began looking at how and why this happened clearly.

As I laid on my lounge chair at Family Life surrounded by the snoring of the other misfits of society, I felt I had to do something to expose this inequality, because I knew no one else would. I wondered what most folks would think about this growing group of unfortunate fellow citizens and the way their money was being used to care for them. Maybe if they learned the truth they’d rise up and demand changes just to protect their own self-interest. It’s not in most people’s interest to have a large class of poverty-stricken neighbors, especially when they have such easy access to modern technologies that can be used in many ways.

We can look back in hindsight at events like the Vietnam War, slavery, segregation, and other human endeavors that seemed like good ideas at the time, but proved to be ignorant, unnecessary and wasteful to most people. Why not have a little foresight and not put ourselves through the suffering and loss of resources these mistakes eventually cause. I’d like to believe that most people would choose to live with less stuff, distractions, and addictions if they knew the real cost to them and their children.

The problems, from global warming to where I’m going to sleep, seem so enormous and unsolvable my head spins. I don’t want to think about them, but I’m too poor to distract myself by consuming or escaping anymore. The holiday spirit going on around me seems so inane and hypocritical. I’ve found out the hard way that problems, big or small, don’t go away by just disregarding them.

Nevertheless, that’s what we’re doing as individuals and as a society. We see that there are more homeless on the streets, drug use and other modern problems: we watch the glaciers melt before our eyes. Yet we continue to elect and count on the people who have created this mess to get us out of it. That’s just insane and cannot work. It is why we are in this position in the first place.

I do have a computer how, many months later, but am still very poor, part of a homeless program and living in fear of the many things that can happen to me because of it. I can see clearly how hypocritical I was, and how I fell into the same illusion most people live in. It’s not that I’m not a hypocrite anymore, it’s that I don’t have the ability or resources to act like one. Being homeless has forced me to look at my life from a very different perspective and wonder if anybody can understand my writing who’s not poor.

In my next article/chapter, I will take you into the strange world of the Ka Hale A Ka Olu (KHAKO) homeless “resource” center where I’ve been living since just after Christmas. The article title “KHAKO Homeless Shelter/Prison/Resort” eludes to a place that means different things to different people. It is a first hand look that cuts through the spin and paints a real picture of life in a homeless “Program”.

Should a person making $45,000 a year be allowed in a government funded homeless program? Should homeless be forced to give up their civil right to have access to government funded aid? Should homeless programs be held responsible for the mistreatment of their clients? You be the judge.

KHAKO Homeless Shelter, Prison, Resort?

By Sanford L. Hill

Ka Hale A Ka Ola (KHAKO) Homeless Resource Center means different things to different people. For some folks, like me, it is the only alternative to living on the street. To others, KHAKO is a place to deal with personal problems. Travelers use it as a way to stay on Maui cheaply. For taxpayers KHAKO is an expense. And of course to the KHAKO staff, it is a job that provides for them and their families.

I have been stuck living at KHAKO for over five months now. For someone like me, being a KHAKO client is a very different life experience. It is a place I didn’t even know existed before I became homeless. I heard about prisons, drug treatment centers, and other unpleasant places, but didn’t know much about homeless shelters. Like many people, it was not something I was very concerned about. Now I’m paying the price for my ignorance and apathy. Hopefully, readers of these articles will be more educated and pro-active. I’m sure homelessness in many parts of our country is a true horror show, much crueler than I’m experiencing. This seems to be where our society is heading in the 21st century.

Like many indigent people, by the time I got to KHAKO I was totally beaten down from living on the street and at Family Life Center. I really didn’t care anymore, and that’s the state of mind most people who enter KHAKO have: It allows one to accept the conditions at KHAKO, which are not as bad as living on the street or at Family Life Center. It’s the best bad choice.

People keep telling me it was my choice to enter KHAKO. That’s true, it’s like having the choice between a heart attack or stroke: A choice of different types of misery. At my age, with my medical problems and no resources, KHAKO was my only real choice. In fact, Family Life Center sends the much larger KHAKO many of its homeless Clients. That’s how the scheme works.

Homeless people are systematically and intentionally led to believe they are broken people in need of treatment when the truth is they are the collateral damage of a failed society that is controlled by the well off. Like all subjugated people, the weak believe what their oppressors tell them. This is not new, except now the potentates use sophisticated media advertising technics to convince their subjects that this is the way it has to be. Like selling soap, if you repeat it enough times people believe it’s true. For me it was the best unpleasant choice: I’ve always known what the truth is, even if I ignored it.

The truth is poverty has very little to do with the good, or bad choices, we make, its simple math. For some humans to have much more of the pie, others must go without. There is only so much pie on this planet flying through space humans can use and we can’t create more. It is physically impossible for everyone to jet around the planet eating Ahi sushi and drinking champagne. Just giving everyone refrigeration may be unfeasible. I am now discovering how the other half lives: actually it’s way more than half. I keep asking myself why our species organized its societies like this. It is truly unsustainable in so many ways, for everyone.

I was transported from Family Life Center to KHAKO on December 27, 2013 and am still living here. I was told I could not refuse being accepted into the KHAKO program and go back to Family Life Center, the only other choice was the illegal street. In truth, KHAKO is the best of the three alternatives. It is also much better than the mainland gulag homeless shelters, which is why many homeless move here.

So there I was back in the operations room with Lee and Wayne filling out paper work and signing documents that took away some of my civil and legal rights. Before I did anything at KHAKO, I was required to pass a urine analysis drug test and alcohol breath test. Like most people, I’d never taken either of these test before and felt shame having Lee watch me piss into a cup. To many people that is no big deal. I felt that it was wrong to have to agree to be searched and tested to receive government poverty aid. My only crime was being poor. But like all suppressed people, you do what you’re told to survive.

The rules at KHAKO are pretty simple: You follow the policies or leave. KHAKO decides what the policies mean and is the sole judge and jury. Many of the rules are purposely vague and the KHAKO staff interprets, and sometimes makes up, the rules anyway they want to. Like a cop giving speeding tickets, the KHAKO staff picks which one of the many violators gets written up, or not. Unlike the police, the KHAKO staff is not well trained, educated, or supervised. Some staff are even ex-cons. To be fair, many of the KHAKO’s rules and policies are dictated by the government agencies that fund it.

Homeless people in our society are legally relegated to second class citizens known as “emergency Homeless”. As an emergency homeless person, many of your rights can be legally taken away. Unlike Federal and state welfare programs, Emergency homeless can have civil rights like privacy, search and seizure, consuming alcohol, HIPPA, and other rights taken away to receive assistance. To get relief a homeless person must agree to “treatment” in a “homeless Program” whether they need it or not. This government funded “treatment” is the backbone of the multi-billion dollar homeless industry.

I have two college degrees, never been arrested, deemed mentally disabled, or had a substance abuse problem. There are businesses on Maui I’ve created and sold that still pay taxes. Again, my homelessness, like many others, is caused by government and economic failure beyond my control. While the ones who caused this failure laugh all the way to the bank, I have to give up my civil rights to get support. There are elderly, disabled, addicted or ex-con homeless that really need treatment programs, but many homeless just need a way to get their basic needs met in this screwed up economy.

KHAKO is mostly funded by federal, state and county tax monies. I have paid a lot of taxes for a lot of years and feel it is my right to use government services that I’m qualified for, without having to give up my civil rights. But like all homeless I do give them up to survive. Our treatment is intentionally designed to benefit the wealthy as I explained in previous “No Shame” articles.

Before getting access to federal, state, and Maui County funded aid an “emergency client” must sign a document releasing KHAKO, the State of Hawaii, and Maui County, from “any and all liabilities which might be incurred by me in connection with KHAKO”. This mean that if the building falls on me, I get food poisoning, beat up by KHAKO staff, or ANYTHING else, I have no legal right to sue KHAKO for negligence, harassment, physical harm or anything. This gives KHAKO carte blanc to treat me anyway they want to and not be held accountable…So they think.

My contract with KHAKO also requires me “to report any and all new and existing prescriptions to my case manager by submitting an updated HSM form immediately” If I get prescribed an over the counter fungus cream my doctor has to fill out that form. What it doesn’t say is the medical form can be viewed by much of the KHAKO staff, who are not trained in medical or HIPPA procedure. How these private medical forms are used, stored, and what happens to them after I leave is not mentioned. Federal HIPPA medical privacy law is very strict, but KHAKO believes I gave up my HIPPA rights when I signed the contract in order to get government funded help. One of my doctors was concerned enough to write two letters asking what happens to my private medical information. KHAKO just ignored them. Again, I have to give up my right to medical privacy to receive federal, state and county aid for being poor. This is not the case with government welfare.

The contract also allows KHAKO to search my unit, vehicle, personal belonging at any time whether I’m present or not. The conditions for the search are vague and determined by KHAKO staff. Listed reasons include; “inspect for alcohol, illegal drugs, or weapons”, “ensure the clean and orderly condition of the unit” and “ensure the safety of any person”. KHAKO staff can, and do, come in and search day or night, whether you’re there or not. No warrant, no warning, just a knock on the door and announcement “Operations, we are coming in”. If you don’t open the door immediately, they use their own key. If something illegal is found the police are called: you’re arrested and evicted immediately.

To stay at the KHAKO shelter you must immediately submit to an alcohol breath test and/or drug urine test on demand. These test happen randomly, or for any reason KHAKO decides. If you fail the test, or won’t take it, you are immediately ordered of the property. KHAKO assumes all its homeless clients have alcohol or drug problems even if there is no evidence of it. I know of no other place where you can be kicked out of the housing you’ve paid for if you have a beer or don’t summit to an alcohol breath test. I haven’t had a beer in 6 months because I’m afraid of being kick out to the street. I’ve never had an alcohol problem, but like most folks, really like to have a drink every once and a while on special occasions.

As an example, recently I went on an overnight trip to Oahu were I had major surgery. My case worker knew about this and I was given an overnight pass. When I returned to KHAKO I was very out of it from the plane flight and pain pills. KHAKO operations knew this, yet insisted that I do an alcohol and piss test because as Wayne told me “they have a policy to test everyone who has been out overnight”. When I asked Wayne to show me the written policy, he told me “It’s a policy we don’t tell the clients about”.

I complained to my case worker that I had just returned from major surgery. I needed to rest and urinating was difficult. My case worker told me “if that was operations policy, I had to do it”. If I refused, the policy was to immediately evict me, and Wayne said he would follow that policy. I was very sick and would not survive being kicked out. I would have had to call an ambulance. After repeatedly asking to be shown the policy that I could not find in any of the rules and contracts they gave me. I was told by my case worker and Wayne that I would be shown the policy later. I finally painfully summited to the test and luckily I passed.

No professional would give a drug test to someone who had major surgery in the last 24 hours. I had no idea what kind of drugs I was given during the 2 ½ hour surgery and whether they would show up on a drug piss test. It’s not like the hospital tells you what drugs they use, or that anyone at KHAKO is qualified to interpret the medical data. I could have easily had some residue drug in my system that would get me thrown out, and believe me, Wayne was hoping for that. The pain and stress that KHAKO put me through over the alcohol and drug test was completely unnecessary and cruel. The drug/alcohol test are administered on the whim of the KHAKO staff. One might not get tested for 6 months, but the fear of living on the street keeps people like me from having a beer.

After I kept on insisting on seeing the policy, I was suddenly brought up to the conference room were Lee and Wayne were sitting. I was told that there was no policy for giving alcohol and drug test to clients who had been out overnight and both of them apologized for telling me that. It wasn’t hard to tell that Wayne and Lee were being forced to apologize and not happy about it. This non-policy had been practiced for years and is just one example of the intimidation and bullying that KHAKO uses to subjugate in its clients.

So how can programs like KHAKO legally get away with denying civil and legal rights to homeless people just because their poor? Homeless people seeking government funded aid at KHAKO are required to sign a contract that allows KHAKO to take away civil liberties and rights that everyone else in our country, except maybe ex-cons, take for granted. This contract makes a homeless person a legal “participant” in the KHAKO program. The contract and policies are written by lawyers and are purposely complex and long (separate multi-page contracts for emergency and transitional clients, and a 20 page “Rules, Policies and Procedures” document). I know that I and every other homeless “client” didn’t understand completely what they were signing and would sign anything to get off the street.

After the signing and testing, I was admitted into the free KHAKO 6 week emergency homeless program. I was assigned a lower bunk in the 32 bed male’s dormitory that used to house convicts back in the day. They also gave me a locker to keep my stuff in. The dorm was locked between 9: am and 4:00pm except for weekends, holidays and sometimes if the weather was real bad. The communal showers and bathroom were open whenever the dorm was. There was also a TV room with a flat screen that had 6 broadcast stations and a DVD player. The TV room is shared with the adjoining women’s emergency dormitory. It was always interesting watching the inmates deciding what to watch.

KHAKO provides all emergency homeless with 3 meals a day in the old prison cafeteria. The food’s not bad and there is a beautiful view of the razor wired Maui Correctional Center next store. All and all, the living conditions were better at KHAKO than Family Life Center or on the street for me. But the loss of personal freedom was much worse than Family Life or the street. The majority of the Maui homeless will not stay at KHAKO because of the loss of freedom. I now understand why.

In addition to the loss of civil rights, there were other restrictions and conditions for staying at KHAKO. All “clients” are required to be in their bunks by midnight and bed checks are done by the staff. No one is allowed to be out pass midnight without a case workers permission. Everyone is required to do three hours of “chores” per week, such as cleaning the dorm, working in the kitchen, etc. All the unskilled manual labor at KHAKO is done by the clients. KHAKO pays no FICA or social security for this free labor.

All clients are also required to take classes in things like cleaning, money management, child care, computer lab, etc. To me the classes were unnecessary, and demeaning. They are taught by untrained, uncertified, case workers to meet some educational requirement to get government funds and call KHAKO a treatment “Program”. KHAKO is paid according to how many individuals attend the class, so attendance is mandatory. Anyone who misses 3 classes is kicked out of KHAKO for 6 months. Forcing college educated people to take intermediate high-school classes is another huge waste of resources. There are much better existing types of educational programs for people that need these types of classes, just look online. It’s another way the homeless business waste taxpayers money.

Being denied services at KHAKO for 6 months is the standard “penalty” (their word) for breaking KHAKO rules. It is a complex system of “non-compliance”, on and off property “notice of cause” and other penalties that are arbitrarily controlled by KHAKO staff. The most serious “penalty” is an “Off Property Notice of Cause” that requires you to immediately leave the property. I covered the consequences of an Off Property Notice of Cause on me extensively in article 2 “No Shame, Life’s Unfair. The fear of being kick out of your residence on a moment’s notice is a powerful threat that effectively keeps clients subjugated. This is especially true for the old, sick and disabled like me.

Some/many people think being denied services at KHAKO for 6 month is not that bad. But consider that other than family life center, there is no other legal place to be homeless on Maui. If your elderly, sick, disabled or have children, this is a harsh punishment. If your young, healthy and have a place to stay, it’s not so bad. Many people living at KHAKO have hidden resources. The only penalty for lying to KHAKO is a 6 month suspension. You can have land, stocks, cash, benefits and other assets and still receive the all the homeless benefits of KHAKO. Just don’t tell KHAKO about them. This is unlike other government welfare program where hiding resources is a felony.

There are many people at KHAKO who claim they are homeless, but really have the resources to rent a place. My roommate who makes $45,000.00 a year is a good example. He, like many of these people, moved here from outside Hawaii. It is by far the cheapest way to say on Maui for the first 6 weeks and word has gotten out over the web on how to do it. It’s not that hard. In fact I’ll tell you how to do it.

When you get off the plane on Maui you can take a bus strait to KHAKO or go have fun on Maui until your money runs out. You can rent a locker or storage unit if you have a lot of stuff, just don’t tell KHAKO about it. It’s important to look like a homeless person when you arrive at KHAKO to ask for help. Backpack, shopping bags etc. You can drive up, but coming on the bus is better. The bus stop is right in front of KHAKO.

Tell the KHAKO operations staff that you’ve been living on the beach or in the Kiawe bushes by the airport for the last two weeks because you don’t have enough money to rent a place or stay in tourist accommodations. No matter what you tell them, they won’t or can’t check on it. If you’re an ex-con, tell them, it doesn’t make any difference unless you are violent or sex offener. They let in most people who are legally “homeless”. It is not need based and that’s how they get paid. Many people consider the rules and hoops KHAKO makes you jump through as more than worth the money they save. Staying on Maui is very expensive.

The biggest hurdle is the drug and alcohol test. If you don’t drink for 24 hours you’ll pass the breath test. Drugs are harder, especially weed, you need to be clean for a few weeks. If you don’t smoke weed or do drugs it’s easy. You are allowed to test positive for any prescribed drugs, many KHAKO clients use prescription drugs, especially sleeping pills. Sleeping in a dorm full of men is not that easy. If you fail the test nothing happens to you, you just have to take it again some other time and pass. You can always stay at Family Life Center no matter how much you drink or do drugs. It’s just not as nice.

For young folks and people coming from some hell hole outside Hawaii, KHAKO is great. You do a few chores, take some mickey mouse classes, and give up some of your civil rights to hang out in paradise for free, complete with 3 hot meals a day, for six weeks. The Bus runs from KHAKO to Wailea were visitors are spending thousands of dollars to stay. Where else can homeless poor people hang out on five star beaches? Of course the visitor industry is freaking out over this as the homeless become more aggressive and overwhelm hotel security. I wonder how the Hawaii taxpayers feel about funding these vaca’s and helping outsiders take jobs that locals need. I’m sure they don’t know.

Of courses if you have a kid or two, you move strait into your own place. No dorm or sharing a room with a stranger, and welfare picks up the cost. There are many kids and pregnant women living at KHAKO. The Micronesian immigrants have got this wired. Again, KHAKO is not a need based program. The most vulnerable poor and homeless do not come first. You just need to learn how to play the KHAKO game. Everyone wins except the taxpayers and the needy who require help the most.

During the six weeks the homeless get a case worker whose primary job is making sure you have enough income to transition to the 2 year KHAKO transition program and a shared living unit. If you don’t have some source of income from a job, social security, welfare, etc., you’ll be returned to the street to fend for yourself. In other words you have to be a homeless person with a steady income. The case worker does nothing to help homeless find a job or get some type of aid. This is especially true for elderly, disabled and sick people who have a more difficult time finding employment. If you are a drug addict, ex-con, have kids, or a job, there are resources available. Many KHAKO residents make slave wages working for large tourist and service industry corporations. KHAKO allows these corporations to pay wages that are not high enough to live on by providing shelter for their workers at taxpayers’ expense.

After six weeks, if you have a job (no self-employment) or source of income you can “transition” to a small tenement style studio that you must share with a stranger if you’re single. You still have to follow all the rules, do three hours of chores a week, but now you have to pay $187.00 a month plus electricity. You have no privacy, except in the bathroom and KHAKO has no rules on how strangers share the apartment other than, “your both adults, figure it out”. It’s easier if you’ve been in drug rehab, jail or the military and know how to share quarters with an unfamiliar person. It also helps if you’re not old and sick.

Again, the only way KHAKO can legally rent these small units to two unrelated persons at the same time is by making the tenants part of a “homeless program”. This helps KHAKO maximize income by allowing 2 people to live in a room legally designed for one. It’s like overcrowding in prison.

Homeless must sign a legal agreement stating that they are not legal tenants and have no legal tenant rights. That they are participating in a homeless program on a daily basis and that the participation can be “cancelled by KHAKO for any reason and the resident will have 5 days to move out”. Basically, it means that even though you pay rent, electricity and work for free for KHAKO, you can be sent back to the street at any time. For some people this is not a big thing, for folks like me it is a life of fear and uncertainty.

Given the outrageous housing cost on Maui, this arrangement is touted as a great deal by KHAKO, until you do the math: $187.00 x 2 is $374.00 plus 12 hours of slave “chores” a month worth at least ten dollars an hour or $120.00 a month. Times 2 people, this equals $614.00 a month plus utilities that KHAKO gets for small, rundown, units with wild chickens shitting in front of the door. This does not include government and private funds. The low income, elderly housing, I’m on a 3 to 5 year wait list for cost 30% of your income for a normal studio or one bedroom apartment. KHAKO takes 70% of my income, my civil rights, and makes me work for a small studio I have to share with another KHAKO “client”: What a deal. If I had known I was going to fall off the cliff, I would have applied for the low income housing years ago before HUD stopped offering it on Maui.

There have been articles in the news and rumors about waste, mismanagement and fraud at KHAKO for years, but there has never been a serious investigation of the homeless program. My feeling is that an in-depth investigation of KHAKO Homeless Resource center and its board of directors would turn up mismanagement, incompetents and fraud. It’s the homeless who suffer and the taxpayer who gets the bill.

This week KHAKO hired a new CEO to replace the CEO who resigned under a cloud of accusations of mismanagement by the news media in Feb 2014. Her resignation ended any investigation into wrong doing. Programs like the computer lab and day care were cut, grounds keeping was cut back, and basically the interest on the 8-9 million dollar KHAKO debt to Maui County was put on the backs of their homeless clients. In the mean-time, KHAKO has hired a sub-contractor to create “classes” that homeless KHAKO clients are forced to go to. I thought forced re-education only happened in authoritarian countries.

The new 28 year old CEO came straight from Maui county government, as a “budding superstar” lawyer who specializes in public relation according to the 8/1/2014 Maui News. Just what the homeless need, someone to protect the status quo and make sure any kind of legal action against KHAKO on behalf of the homeless is difficult. It will also be easy for her to spin KHAKO into looking like a blessing for the dispossessed in the election year press, as the homeless have no voice or advocate to defend them and tell the truth. She has no shame making $85,000.00 a year plus great benefits, yet has no experience running a program for the people at the very bottom of society. I think she will probably be making campaign contributions to her political benefactors from her former job with the Maui County Council. How can we expect the same people who have been ruining the safety net for years to fix it this time? It is the definition of insanity. Again, it will be the taxpayers, poor and homeless who lose: Fooled again!

KHAKO is a prime example of the decline of American society. There is the waste and incompetents that the conservative’s rails about, and the underfunded programs for victims of our broken economy and government that benefits the well-off that the liberals moans about. It is a very complex, unsustainable situation that is hidden and distorted by the politicians and homeless service providers.

This article is the tip of the iceberg. I could write so much more from my own experience at KHAKO and what I’ve been told by other homeless as well as homeless workers. It is an untenable mess created by incompetent people that is not reducing homelessness. But, the general public seems to support it in elections. We seem to have lost our aloha for the most disadvantaged among us.

This is an election year and we already know we will have a new governor. The new crooks and old crooks will fight over who gets the money to take care of the homeless and programs like KHAKO. All elections seem to do anymore is determine what factions can fight for control of taxpayer’s money. The homeless and poor are too subjugated and broke to have any voice in election results. So, this confusing, broken, ineffective, heartless system of taking care of the needy will continue until it collapses under its own weight.

As for me, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to survive at KHAKO fighting cancer and other medical problems. I’ve been told there are no resources other than health care to help elderly, sick people like me. I doubt I’ll survive the 2-5 year waiting list for the elderly housing I’ve been accepted for. If I was young, heathy, and had a job, I could get thousands to help pay rent. But, that’s not the case, so I have no hope. Without hope the soul soon dies.

It is also becoming harder to write these articles. Today I get a new bed I don’t need, but have to take a bus to the library to use the internet because KHAKO refuses to provide WIFI to its clients so they can look for jobs, contact family, etc. I suspect the reason for no WIFI is KHAKO doesn’t want clients describing their life here on Facebook or at Best Thinking.

My fear of retaliation from KHAKO for writing these articles is real. I know KHAKO operations staff has told other clients that “I’m a trouble maker and a problem”. These unfounded allegations are not true and not said to my face. I believe KHAKO considers me a “troublemaker” for exercising my right of free speech that shines a light on what is really going on at KHAKO. They know I won’t survive on the street.

My next article, “Crazy Or What?” dives into the touchy subject of sanity, depression and mental illness from a homeless point of view. It will be a hard look at who is really crazy.

Crazy or What?

Some scientist say that humans have a “mad gene” that no other species has. It is the gene that enabled human to cross oceans, go to the moon, create, and use nuclear weapons, as well as produce the “Jackass” movie…my case is rested. We are the only species that is capable of not only thinking up crazy things, but accomplishing them. Unfortunately, the crazy gene is a double edged sword. Being homeless has given me a different perspective on where us crazy humans are headed. Full Disclosure: I’m a CRAZY human and am pretty sure I have quite few “mad genes” in me.

Like many homeless people, I’m constantly asking myself one question: Am I nuts, mentally ill, bonkers, out of my mind, and other terminologies for crazy? Looking around at the society the “sane” people have built and control, I really wonder. Is this the best way for all of us to live? Is it the best of bad alternatives? People say America may not be perfect, but it is better than anywhere else. I question whether that is still true. It seems we have enough knowledge in the 21st century to do much better, but we just can’t get past the nasty side of our “mad” human nature.

Growing up in the tropical paradise that was Oahu before the gold rush, I know how nice life can be. I watched as human nature destroyed that comfortable lifestyle. “Paved paradise and put up a parking lot” is not just lyrics in a song to me. We have to ask ourselves was that the sane thing to do? Is life better now? Obviously it isn’t better for me or the other homeless. But many people accept the unsustainable, media driven delusions of more, new, flashy, stuff in a choose your illusion lifestyle.

At my age I’m able to look back in hindsight at endeavors that seemed sane at the time and know they were stupid. Things like Vietnam, trickledown theory, MAD, communism and other failed, and some would argue insane, social policies put forward by the supposed best human thinking. Other great ideas like integration, the war on poverty, space travel, and nuclear disarmament that were logical steps in human survival are now being rolled back. 60 years from now are we going to look back again and realize that we trusted the wrong people to decide the sanest course of human action….singing “we won’t get fooled again”, again. Are we insane electing the same leaders expecting a different result?

Unfortunately, the actions we take personally and as a society can only be judged on their sanity in hindsight. Many ideas that seem great at the time turn out to be nuts, whereas, many ideas that seem crazy turn out to be wise. It seems to me from looking at history that the crazies have been deciding, for better or worse, human direction most of the time…Yet, we choose to follow these crazies.

On the micro level, it has been determined by mental health doctors that I’m very depressed, maybe suicidal and need to be treated. I don’t disagree with them, this crazy world depresses me. Anyone who is not depressed given my situation would be mentally delusional and need to be treated in my opinion. To me the treatment is simple: give me back my freedom, remove me from this hell-hole, and return my privacy. I guarantee I would not be depressed anymore, promise. KHAKO still has not answer my doctors request for assurances that KHAKO follows federal HIPPA law so I can try the medical treatment my doctor thinks may help with my depression.

I say this because I was not depressed before I became homeless. Sure I’ve had ups and downs, but I had a place to deal with the illness, heartbreak, disappointment, or whatever, and move on. I realize that ANYONE can have psychological problems, but homelessness and abject poverty will always make the medical condition worse…usually much worse. Many conditions like illness, accidents, or genetics that lead to mental illness are out of our control, but homelessness and poverty are societal choices that can be changed: They are not acts of God, unless caused by a natural disaster.

But doctors can’t prescribe housing. They can only prescribe drugs. Drugs that may or may not work and have dangerous side effects. While I have not taken psychological drugs, I have witnessed the side effect on clients at KHAKO who do. They are put on SSRI’s and other behavioral drugs in this insane KHAKO environment with very little medical supervision.

I witnessed an incident where a doctor gave a KHAKO client samples of Prozak and Zolof to try for their depression. The person had a paranoid reaction in the middle of the night but would not let me call an ambulance because they had not had the doctor fill out the form telling KHAKO that they were using the drug. The person was afraid that if the KHAKO operation staff found out they would search their unit, find the drugs the doctor gave them, and be immediately evicted as is KHAKO’s Policy. The only thing the operation staff is qualified to do is call 911 in a medical emergency.

I have to wonder how much mental illness would be prevented or moderated by controlling homelessness and deprivation. The numbers from research are all over the place, but it is clear that some percentage of mental illness would be averted or constrained by limiting extreme poverty. Besides the money society would save from treating less mental illness, there is the more important fact that we would live in a much happier, safer, positive and sane society.

Illegal drugs and alcohol abuse is another problem for the homeless, as it is for the rest of society. Whether homeless and poor have more of a problem than the middle class and well off is a matter of debate with statistics and studies that vary widely. I think that poor people abuse alcohol and drugs to feel well-off while well-off folks just want to get high. Maybe the well-off are trying to escape the guilt of being affluent. If they are we should help them become less affluent.

Full disclosure: Like anyone who grew up in the 60’s, partied through the 70’s, and woke up with a hang-over in the 90’s, I’ve done more than my fair share of illegal drugs. Like a lot of people, life changed and I mellowed out. Like most folks, I was never addicted, needed treatment, or let drugs, or alcohol control my life and keep me from accomplishing great things. I think the crazy gene helped.

Then I was diagnose with a severe neurological disorder joking referred to on TV as Restless Leg Syndrome. After trying television advertised pharmaceuticals that made my condition more acute with psychotic side-effect, I was prescribed low doses of good old Heroin. I now have to take heroin every night. The funny thing is, I never get that fun, euphoric high that people on TV shows who casually pop painkillers get….It’s a drag. Why is it that medical research has not come up with one other drug in 4000 years that fights pain as good as opioids? Where is that “Mad gene” when you need it?

Trying to force people not to get high has never been successful or economical. As a country we have spent 100’s of BILLIONs of dollars on the war on drugs over the last 50 years and still have roughly the same amount of illegal drug users. Do you think we might be doing it wrong? Again, the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing and expect different results. The war on poverty and the war on drugs seem to have much in common. We spend billions employing people to solve these problems, but they are just getting worse: Those are the facts. These people blame everyone but themselves for the failure to limit substance abuse, homelessness and poverty. Crazy or What?

We need new concepts of what is sane policy that are not based on old myths, politics, religions, or cultures that no longer apply to 21st century human reality. It seems absolutely bonkers to me to use the same constructs and conventions designed for conventional war in an age of WMDs and terrorism. We just hope and pray no one will go nuts, press some button, and send us back to the stone-age, or worse. The same is true with distribution of wealth and resources, especially when the use and distribution of those resources is causing massive human suffering and environmental degradation.

The capitalist system worked OK when there were only a billion humans on the planet who did not affect the planet’s environmental balance and had lots of untapped resources. The same can be said of monarchies, theocracies, communism and other systems of social organization and resource allocation.

If things got bad where you lived, you just moved, or conquered some new place. Now the earth is overrun with humans and some have WMDs that make it MAD to try and conquer them using traditional methods. I covered much of this in article 3 “Lost Tribes”.

The point is that we need a big paradigm shift in human nature to understand, control, and use sanely the paradigm shift in human technology and population. Many people want to go back to the good old days of traditional values and beliefs for solutions to today’s problems. Unless we eliminate BILLIONS of people that idea will never work. When Atlas shrugs now, many more people suffer or die. There is no magical, fictional solution.

I’ve always liked comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s “you might be a redneck if” jokes. They’re funny because they are true observations. I’ve come up with some “You might be crazy if” jokes to lighten up this depressing subject. Listen up John Stewart.

You might be crazy if you think we can survive a nuclear war.

You might be crazy if you think we can solve our nation’s problems by shutting down the government.

You might be crazy if you think our current politicians can solve our nation’s problems.

You might be crazy if you tell other people their crazy.

People have many different ideas of what is crazy, some diametrical opposites. Religious people believe that their god(s) holds the answer to our problems. Mental health professionals believe their treatments hold the answers to behavioral problems. Capitalist believe their economic system works the best. All of the above have rhetoric that, they think, proves their points. Yet, Agonistics, natural paths, and socialist also have rhetoric that proves their points. Who is right? Could everyone be wrong? Maybe you might be crazy if you believe you have the answer. Again, just because you believe something’s true does not make it true, except to you. Maybe you guessed right, maybe not.

Last night I had an encounter with the literal crazies at a behavior modification class called “Bridges” that I was forced to attend by KHAKO to stay here. It was taught by two paid mental health “facilitators” whose goal was to make us dysfunctional poor folks functional by practicing their psychology based beliefs. Psychology is a belief system like all others based on the small amount of knowledge humans have learned about our mental functions. That belief system of what the knowledge means changes constantly with new discoveries. Logically this means that some current psychological practices may be deemed wrong by new knowledge as has happened many times in this belief. Remember lobotomies or shock therapy. Crazy or what?

Homeless people have to deal with case workers, mental health workers, pastors, and others who think something is wrong with them because they are indigent. Their treatment is based on their belief system; Jesus, psycho-babble, Krishna, whatever. The “Bridges” class was based on psycho-babble that one of the facilitators said “saved her”, from being suicidal and psychotic. Just like how a pastor told me that Jesus saved him from the same thing.

I could have stayed in the class and argued the validity of her belief, but that would be like trying to convince an Imam that the Prophet Mohammed is not real. Life’s too short. I told them I was writing articles about what it’s like to be homeless, and they asked me to leave. Don’t want to confuse the converts with reality or other possibilities.

As more and more folks read about my journey through homelessness, the crazy label is being thrown at me. I’m sure a few readers wonder about my sanity…I wonder about my sanity too. The problem is that what is crazy in my world may not be in the “normal” world most people live in.

But the proof is in the pudding. Humans have exponentially more information at their disposal than ever, yet cannot seem to use it to create a better world. It’s like a computer that has access to huge amounts of data, but the processor is too small and slow to make use of it. We humans need more “memory” and a better way to process information concerning our reality.

We all need to take a good hard look at the world we live in and decide whether or not the direction we are headed is crazy or what. As I’ve said, sitting at the bottom of the cliff of homelessness gives one a different perspective on life, and a lot of time to think about it. It’s like my mind has had a “clean restore” and wiped out all the junk software, malware and other programs that have been slowing it down and focusing its processing power on meaningless illusions. New calculations are now possible for me, maybe different answers. “Normal” takes on a whole new meaning.

Unfortunately, all the old, obsolete computers that run the system can’t understand the new data, it is in a different code. The operators know the old code and don’t want to learn a new, different one. So the programmers update the old code to make it seem like it’s new and different. They deceive the masses into believing they are in control with “like” buttons and addictive software. How many points do you have on “Angry Bird”? What level have you reached on “World of Warcraft” and how much time did take you to get there? You might be crazy if you’re a 90th level Warcraft wizard.

Our distorted sense of reality is causing real problems that will eventually affect us all. Even people who witness the deterioration of society first-hand like Police, emergency, or social workers no longer question or understand the problems they face daily. They are overwhelmed and have become desensitized to problems of the folks they are paid to help. It seems that we all are becoming more insensitive to the problems of others as we chase the illusions we believe in. We are no longer capable of understanding, or processing, the information that is truly important to a species tripping in space.

I continue to see this desensitization first-hand every day as a lowly inmate at KHAKO. I watch clients and providers fight each other to see who can get the most crumbs. It’s like a micro-cosmism of the real world with everyone playing their own game of survival. The clients trying to get as many benefits as they can while the staff tries to keep their jobs. There are winner and losers using the game tactics they know best. People smile and call you “sir” while they cut your throat behind your back against a backdrop of constantly changing friends, enemies, frienemies and alliances. Like the real world, the strong have it better than the weak.

The strongest faction here, by far, is the KHAKO organization and staff. They control and make rules, policies, and programs that seem to primarily benefit them in one way or another. From challenging my doctor’s orders for not doing chores, to harassing me with bogus complaints, to changing the very contract I sign with KHAKO when I was admitted, it never ends. That’s their job.

I was reminded of that this week the day after another surgery for skin cancer. I was told that the contract I signed when I was admitted into the KHAKO program in December is now “null and void” or at least the part that said I could live here “once accepted into the transitional program for up to two years” after spending six week in the emergency homeless dorm.

Lee explained very clearly to me when I was admitted as an “emergency homeless” that I’d have six weeks to meet the financial and program requirements to “transition” into the shared one room studio where I could stay for up to two years if I followed the polices and rules while I looked for a place to live. Lee gave this same explanation to all other emergency clients at the time. This was KHAKO’s stated policy on the first page of the “Rules, Policies, and Procedures” handbook that KHAKO and I signed an agreement to follow.

After six weeks in the emergency dorm I was called into see KHAKO’s CEO Becky Woods who told me I had been accepted into KHAKO’s two year transition program. My State of Hawaii disability provided me with enough money to pay KHAKO’s ”program fee”(rent) and electricity cost in my unit. I had been accepted, and put on the wait list to seven low income elderly housing, which is the only housing I could afford. I was told as long as I paid my program fee and followed KHAKO’s rules, policies and procedures, I could live at KHAKO for up to 2 years or until I was accepted in low income housing, or found other housing. The transition contract was signed by myself and KHAKO’s CEO on Feb. 7 1014. So far I have paid program fees on time for seven months and have no NCs or violations of KHAKO policies that have not been overturned. So why am I now being told that the 2 year transition contract has been cancelled?

I mean I’ve upheld my side of the contract. What will happen to other old, sick, disabled folks that have been living at KHAKO longer than me who have nowhere to go? Is KHAKO just going to start arbitrarily kick them out on the street like the mental health ward that treats young patients on Maui that’s closing this week to save money? Another good Idea: homeless and mentally ill youth living on the street. What could go wrong with this plan? Is this crazy or what? Seriously, why not give them all guns too.

I was told by my case worker at the same time that KHAKO does have the power to have me forcibly evicted by the police. He also questioned my medical treatment saying “people(?) see me walking around, getting on the bus and wonder why I have a doctor’s excuse not to do chores”. The KHAKO staff probably think I’m beboping around Maui hanging at the beach, having fun. They’d never consider I was struggling to use the bus to get food, medication and treatment because no one helps me. Maybe I should walk around with my shirt off so the staff can see the scars and stiches. They seem to get off on people suffering. You’d think KHAKO would respect the reputable Dermatologist who saved my life.

It seems my case worker is taking a harder line with me lately. In the past he has stood up for me with the operations staff, even getting them to apologize for their behavior. He told me he didn’t think KHAKO was following HIPPA law and to have my doctor write a letter. He also encouraged me to write these articles, even complimenting my writing. A few weeks ago he said that “if I could show him in writing the two year KHAKO transitional policy, he’d back me up and I could stay here up to two years, end of story”. I showed it to him in writing, and at our last meeting he told me that policy had been changed since then and was now null and void. I didn’t think you could change a two party contract without notifying each party and getting the agreement of both signatories. But I’ve already written about how homeless people are treated differently legally and have no real access to the court system.

He also said stiches or no stiches, I had to go up to the Social Security Office and bring him back some proof that showed I’d applied for complicated social security disability benefits. He said he had to show “THEM” (KHAKO? operations?) I was doing something to get them off his back.

I guess being old, broke and fighting cancer is not enough for them. It would be different if KHAKO was trying to do something to better my situation. I can honestly say that since I transitioned, KHAKO has done nothing for me other than give me a crappy place to live, which I have paid and worked for. I guess because I’m not a ex-con, uneducated, or have a chemical dependency problem, it’s not profitable to help me. I’m also too old and sick to get a job: Can’t live with me, can’t get rid of me, can’t shoot me.

Maybe this is retribution for me writing about KHAKO and the homeless problem in an honest way that has not been done before. People are reading these article, and some are trying to find a way to help me and change the way homeless are treated. To me, their like the first people to speak out for integration, women’s right to vote, gay rights and other civil rights issues. I’m trying to drink from a water fountain I’m not supposed to as KHAKO tells me they can kick me off their publicly funded bus if I don’t do as I’m told and sit in the back. Next they’ll bring out the dogs…..Get IT!

So I think everyone needs to look in the mirror and ask themselves “Am I crazy or what”? Do you look at the insanity around you say “that’s not too bad” and google something else- Oh look, bright, shiny things on good looking people. Or think “that shit is terrible, people shouldn’t be treated like that”, but I can’t do anything: too busy. Or even worse, you believe that the impoverished and disenfranchised deserve what’s happening to them because it’s their fault. Or, are you one of the few who think these illogical problems have to be dealt with because they are damaging me, my family and society: Then do something to try and change things. I mean really change things before it’s too late-if that’s possible.

Giving to the food bank, non-profits that help the poor and volunteering to help the needy is important. But, it’s only putting a band-aid on a serious cancer. Our society needs to find a way to prevent and treat this cancer of poverty before it metastasize beyond our control. Unlike cancer, poverty is created and controlled by mankind. Like climate change, humans can either deal with it now or suffer the consequences later. It is our CHOICE.

Most folks are waiting for the other guy to change first. Why should some of live with less stuff while others live in luxury? That’s crazy and won’t solve the problem anyway. We need a new social contract that reflects the realities of the 21st century not the 15th century. Before that can be done, people need to understand the realities of the 21st century. It’s obvious looking around that we don’t.

Unfortunately, us humans are crazy motherf%*kers {CMF) who have a poor track record of solving common problems without the use of violence. But violence won’t work this time, remember WMDs? For the first time in history we have global population, resource and environmental dilemmas that affect us all. We will not be saved by some Marvel comic superhero or Sigma Force like in James Rollins book “The 6th Extinction”. Like I’ve said before “life is non-fiction, you just can’t make up the ending and expect it to happen”. It’s time to see reality like it really is and stop believing in media driven illusions or ancient unproven myths. We need to control the Crazy gene if humans are going to survive!

In my next article I will continue describing my homeless journey in Mauiland. Thing are starting to reach a boiling point as more people here read these articles and ask questions. It is an election year! Hopefully someone in the local news media will start asking questions posed by these articles. Then again the same politicians that are responsible for this mess spend a lot of money buying ads in the local media. Why bite the hand that feeds you. I will also look at the macro problem homeless have to deal with outside their village. Federal, state, and other homeless policies that fund the homeless business.

The End Game

Delay, Deny, and Hope They Die

By Sanford L. Hill


Anyone who is, or has been, homeless or poverty-stricken has sought aid from their states version of Welfare (DHS) or Federal Disability insurance (SSI). Welfare is supposed to be the government safety net for the impoverished folk on the bottom rung of our countries social-economic ladder. It is meant to insure that these destitute people have the basic necessities of life. Anyone who thinks our needy are being taken care of is out of touch with reality. The welfare system in America is now broken and we see the fallout from that all around us.

The social service system is changing quickly as the funding is cut while the people who need help increases exponentially. This well documented change in assistance has been spun in so many directions that no one knows, or cares, what’s really going on unless they are affected by it.

The only welfare system I have used is the Hawaii Department of Human Services (DHS). I first used welfare in the early 1970’s when my wife got pregnant and then broke her back in a car accident. It gave us enough money for shelter, food, medical and utilities as well as our cost of going to community college on Maui. It was a real safety net that allowed us, and many others, to get back on our feet and become productive members of society. I’m sure I more than paid back my aid in taxes and jobs I created over the next forty something years.

The progressive safety net system of the 70’s was a product of the crazy humanitarian movement of the 60’s that believed war was not good for living things, there could be no peace without justice and the poor and disenfranchised needed to be cared for. The “peace and love” thing. We knew it was too idealist to succeed against the entrenched greed and ruthlessness of age old powers and beliefs that were in control. There is nothing like being homeless to prove how badly we lost.

In Hawaii now, getting Food Stamps and medical coverage is easy if you are poor in Hawaii. Getting financial aid is much more difficult, unless you have kids or are over 65 years old. It doesn’t matter if you are poor because of government and economic failure that has nothing to do with you. Or if there are no jobs and the ones available are slave-wage that will not pay for high living expenses that you also have nothing to do with. Poor who are not deemed disabled, or given a job, are forced into homelessness, criminality or become one of Hawaii’s “unattended deaths”.

In November of 2014 the Hawaii DHS took away my $348.00 a month in financial aid saying I was no longer disabled. Without the aid I would no longer be able to pay the $230.00 “program fee” that allowed me to live in squalor and misery at KHAKO. Serious thoughts of suicide returned as I knew I would not survive going back to living on the street. I was surprised by the CYRICA doctors finding because my medical condition had really deteriorated in the last six months including stage one cancer, deteriorating sleep disorders and psychiatric problems caused by my homelessness. This is all well documented in my medical records. It made no sense. I was having more sever medical problems, but the doctors the DHS hired say I’m getting better. I know other people who live at KHAKO who are much more able to work than me that are getting DHS or SSI financial aid. Welcome to the bizarre world of medical disability.

The only way one can receive financial aid (welfare) from the Hawaii DHS if you are under 65 years old is to be deemed disabled by a board of doctors hired by DHS, or have kids. Since I can’t have kids and won’t be 65 until 2016, I have to be ruled disabled. Which I was, until I wasn’t. Everyone from case workers to homeless people told me it happens all the time, and all I had to do was file a “Fair Hearing Appeal” to get back my DHS disability. So I did and went down disability rabbit hole that makes Wonderland seem normal.

Like Wonderland, the DHS/SSI disability world is a strange reality that one can easily get lost in. The confusing laws, rulings, and rhetoric only exist in the welfare world and affect only the very poor who are the least able to understand it. I have fallen down the welfare hole located at the bottom of the economic cliff so I can give you a good look at this modern reality.

Like Wonderland, the first thing you have to accept is that nothing is as it seems. It is not the job of DHS workers to find a way to get you aid. Their job appears to be to find ways to deny benefits. Like the IRS system, the policies and DHS law are complex and only understood by the DHS. When they make a mistake, you will have to correct it, which always seems to happen when your benefits are cut-off suddenly. Then you have to wait with no food or money until they correct it, taking as long as it takes.

What the DHS says and what is does are often different. For example, when you call a DHS worker you will always get a recorded message telling you to leave your phone number and they will call you back. They almost never do. If it is something important with a dead-line you have go to the welfare office and wait to be helped. Mainly times it’s just that the computer sent you a letter that’s meaningless. Of course if you do anything that is incorrect: Boom, benefits canceled, off with your head.

Of course, like most problems we have, it begins with legislation that makes no sense. The following is the law that solely determines if a person is disabled and receive DHS financial aid. Hawaii Administrative Rules S17-659-2 defines disabled as follows:

““Disabled” means an individual is unable to engage in any substantial gainful employment, at least thirty hours of work per week, for a period of more than sixty days form onset of disability, because of a physical impairment, mental impairment, or combination of a physical or mental impairment.”

First, let’s get real here. Is working at a slave wage job “substantial gainful employment”? Not to those working the job. It is survival work that does not cover the cost of living. The only ones who gain substantially from this work are the owners of the business who profit from the low cost of labor. “Substantial gainful employment” is a completely subjective term. I’m sure the DHS/SSI people who decide what this means have a completely different perspective then me or other poor people do. If the poor where to decide what employment is substantial and gainful instead of well off people with a selfish agenda, a lot more folks would be receiving Hawaii DHS financial aid.

Most people believe that it is the DHS that decides if a person can receive financial aid. It’s not. DHS has hired a large corporation named Cyrica to give a medical opinion on whether an individual isunable to engage in any substantial gainful employment, at least thirty hours of work per week, for a period of more than sixty days form onset of disability, because of a physical impairment, mental impairment, or combination of a physical or mental impairment.” By law, the DHS must follow Cyirca’s ruling, There are no exceptions. The fate of Hawaii’s poorest citizens to get a tiny amount of state aid ($348.00) is arbitrarily made by a large for Profit Company. For many poor, including myself, this money is the difference between living in dilapidated homeless shelters/public housing or on the street.

I say arbitrarily because there is no way a board of doctors can medically determine if a disabled person can work 29 or 30 hours a week at hypothetical jobs that may, or may not, exist in reality. The ruling is made by a board of Cyrica doctors you’ve never met based on a 10 to 15 minute medical exam by a Cyrica MD and whatever medical records your medical provider sends, which you also have no control over. Even if your MD sends a letter stating that you cannot work because of a medical condition, as mine did, they can just ignore it. This flawed system cost the state (taxpayers) more money every 6 months than if they just gave every needy person $350.00 a month. Instead Cyrica, doctors, social workers, consultants, legislators and others make off like bandits. The poor and taxpayers lose out.

Cyrica provides no specific medical evidence why you can work 30 hours a week at some theoretical substantially gainful employment. This is an important fact. Maybe one can only work 29 hours a week, in which case they would be eligible for aid. The Cyrica doctors can only guess based on incomplete evidence that they may not even be medically qualified to give an opinion on. That guess could mean living on the street for someone like me: Possibly Life or Death. Cyrica gets paid well no matter what happens to me and other poor. There is no accountability for their actions.

Living in a homeless shelter gives me a real good reading on who receives and is denied DHS/SSI benefits. There are many people here much healthier than me who receive DHS/SSI checks. They know how to play the system. Some will even make themselves sick by chain smoking, overeating or even injuring themselves. My roommate has repertory problems but continues to chain smoke. Can one work 30 hours a week with lung problems? Pay the Cyrica doctors to guess. It’s sad that people have injure themselves just to get money to live while others profit from the suffering.

Off course the ones who really profit from the broken safety net are the slave wage companies that offer the only other way to survive, besides being a criminal or the military. My KHAKO case worker used a 70 year old lady’s slave wage job sweeping up at McDonalds as an example of what I could do. Of course taxpayers subsidize the low McDonalds pay with enough benefits to keep her alive and able to work. It is the bust-ass work of the slave-wage earners that helps make the affluent even richer. This is not just an American problem, it is the dark side of the human species that is deeply entrenched.

After being denied my only source of income, $350.00 a month from the DHS, I filed for what is called a “Fair Hearing” to challenge the DHS disqualification decision. During the Fair Hearing appeal you have the choice of continuing your financial aid. But, if you lose the decision, you have to pay DHS back the money you got. The 50/50, odds of winning are the best odds in the DHS appeal system, according to Legal Aid Society. So, I figured, roll the dice-what are they going do if I don’t pay them back? Break my leg.

This DHS Kangaroo court is presided over by a supposedly impartial “Administrative Law Judge” hired by the DHS to rule whether DHS is acting correctly according to law. The hearing is a bizarre high-breed of a legal court, (motions, sworn testimony, legalese, evidence) and the fairy tale DHS law system were the judge must rule only on whatever the Cyrica Doctors say. I’ve been evolved in real court and trials and believe me, this “Fair Hearing” is way down the rabbit hole. I cannot imagine how poor folks with much less education than I have deal with this hearing. It is probably like trying to appeal a Jim Crow law in the south in the 1950’s. The DHS laws are vague and stacked against you and the judge can interpret them anyway he wants. You can only be affected by these unjust laws if your poor.

Since the Fair Hearing is a quasi-legal affair, you are allowed to have a lawyer represent you. There is no way I could afford one so I went down to Legal Aid. Like other NGO providers to the needy, they have nice offices and love getting people to apply for help for funding reasons. Of course, after their expenses, Legal Aid does not have the resources to handle but a small fraction of the request for help. They couldn’t represent me, but would help with advice and getting some documents from the DHS . I did get a few minutes advice over the phone from a Legal Aid attorney and a hilarious 13 page pamphlet on “Testifying at Your Disability Hearing”.

Remember most people at a DHS “fair hearing” are the poorest of the poor with physical or mental disabilities desperately trying to get $2088.00 for 6 months living expenses: Way below the poverty line and you must be reevaluated every 6 months. The appeal process alone cost way more than $2088.

I feel I need to share my hearing experience and let you decide if anything in this rabbit hole is FAIR. The Legal Aid pamphlet says: “This process is complicated and technical, and it doesn’t necessarily involve common sense”, and that “disability determination is what we call “hypothetical” determination. It has very little to do with the real world”. Just like the Jim Crow laws of the South before desegregation.

So I set off walking from the bus stop to the hearing office in the hot sun on January 30 2015. The hearing court was located in a strip mall not far from the beach. Another wealthy property owner profiting from the misery of the poor: I’m sure the rents not cheap. The office is nice with lots of DHS workers milling about. Exhausted from the walk, I’m led into a large conference room with a long meeting table and big screen teleconferencing monitor hanging from the wall. I felt alone.

After a few minutes the hearing judge, Steven Royal, a private attorney from Oahu, and Mrs. R Tokunaga, the DHS appeals unit supervisor, walked in and seated themselves. The Judge at the head of the table and myself and the supervisor on either side. The judge called Dr. Kubo, the CYRCA medical consultant on a speaker phone. These people have done thousands of hearing and knew the game inside an out, It was their job and they are well paid for it.

I have been in many high powered legal and business meeting like this and usually I’m not intimidated. But, this Fair hearing did not feel “informal” or “non-confrontational”, and I definitely felt intimidated as I had no idea what was really going on. It seemed like formality: “Trust us, we gave him a Fair Hearing and decided our decision was correct”. It’s not our fault he doesn’t understand the law.

We were all sworn in and the hearing began. The first thing the DHS supervisor stated was a part of the DHS law I didn’t know about. By law, the DHS has to follow CYRCA’s finding on my disability. This hearing was to determine if DHS followed the law. I thought, that DHS made the final determination on a person’s eligibility for aid. In fact, by law you can only get DHS financial aid if CYRCA determines you meet the vague, hypothetical criteria of what the law says “disabled” means, as I wrote about earlier. I felt like Opera’s character in the movie “Selma” trying to register to vote in the south. There is no way to win because DHS followed the Jim Crow DHS law, and they have known it all the time.

I figured the only chance I had was to convince the judge that CYRCA was wrong. I brought the DVD that had all my medical records that CYRCA had used to determine disability and should convince any doctor that I could not have worked 30 hours a week. I also brought in forms for a 100 days of medical excuse from work that my doctors had issued over the six months being examined as well as a letter from my sleep doctor explaining the seriousness of my disorder. None of my doctors are crazy enough to give a medical opinion on the exact number of hours I can work a week at a hypothetical job.

I tried to give my evidence to the judge, but he said “he wouldn’t touch them”. The judge is not a doctor and he does not have the authority to overrule the law that says that the DHS must deny me aid if CYRCA says I’m not disabled based on CYRCA’s hypothetical guess on my ability to work 30 hours a week. My head is spinning. I know most people reading this cannot follow what I’m saying. Most poor folks just give up and hope the judge has mercy on them, because that’s the only chance they’ve ever have. You see the burden of proof is on the poverty stricken plaintiff who cannot afford to have their doctors at the hearing or a legal representative who understood DHS law-Not that it would matter.

The judge told me to fax any new medical evidence to CYRCA to be reviewed. So much for the “Fair Hearing”. Does anyone think the Doctors at CYRCA are going to admit they made a mistake based on any type of evidence? The “Fair Hearing” decision is solely based on what the defendant’s doctors think of the plaintiff’s evidence. I could bring in doctors, lawyers, it wouldn’t matter because the judge is not going decide if my doctors or CYRCA has the correct medical opinion of whether I can work more or less than 30 hours a week. The judge relies on CYRCA to interpret any medical evidence. CYRCA is not an independent judge. They are a for profit company being paid by the state to be an expert witness for DHS and their doctors have a number of reasons not to reverse themselves, including getting paid.

If I don’t like the judge or CYRCA’s decision, the only option you have is to take them to Circuit Court, and they know that’s probably never going to happen. For one thing, DHS did follow the law, just as the voter registrars followed the Jim Crow laws in the south that kept black people from voting. Until the poor oppressed folks rise up and much of the rest of the country demand equal justice, the laws will not change. It is not in the interest of the politicians and their wealthy benefactors to make slave wage people equal. Never has been.

I could sue CYRCA directly for malpractice, incompetence, discrimination, maybe even fraud, if I could find an attorney to do it. Legal Aid, which is funded by the government to provide legal services for the poor, sent me a letter stating that they could not represent me. They say they do not have the resources to help all the poor that need it. Again there is some unknown, well-paid, person, using a unknown system to decide who among the needy gets legal assistants. Again, I think one of the biggest problems the homeless have is not having any legal recourse when abused by the safety net systems that are supposed to help them, including Legal Aid.

I had hoped at the time that the CYRCA doctors would be honorable enough to grant me disability after reviewing the open and shut medical evidence my doctors provided. In hindsight I now realize that the CYRCA medical board doctors, Todd Kubo MD and Raymond Thompson MD, where going to cover their own ass and reject any evidence my doctors provided. CYRCA”s response to the medical evidence the judge gave them at my “Fair Hearing” proves that. I won’t bore you with all the misleading, twisted and medically incompetent content of the CYRCA doctors response, but hear is one example of the judges ruling based solely on that response:

“Dr. Kubo stated that the board (CYRCA) is aware of claimant’s medical condition. However, although RLS affects a person’s sleep, it should not have a direct impact on physical functioning while awake. Thus, the functional capacities listed by Dr. Kau on Oct 3, 2014 were not rebutted. Consequently, the boards (CYCRA) position remains the same. Claimant was capable of working 30 hr. a week at the time of his examination on Oct 3, 2014.”

In the letter the judge is referring to, My doctor, who is the head of the Kaiser sleep department for the State of Hawaii, wrote that she had been treating me for SEVER RLS, Insomnia and sleep apnea since 2008. Among other things, she wrote, “The amount of distress caused by his underlying RLS has been considerable with profound impact on his quality of life both DAY and night”. Work is part of life and my sever sleep disorder, especially the opiates and sleeping pills I take daily to control it, have a profound impact on it, both day and night. If this isn’t a strong rebuttal, I don’t know what is. But the judge refused to read that letter and his decision was based solely on CYRCA’s medical response to it, which any competent doctor will say is wrong. My case is rested-NO FAIR HEARING.

I am using this specific, boring, example of what happened to me to try and give a glimpse of what the poorest of the poor must deal with daily. Remember, All these resources are being spent by the State of Hawaii to keep a destitute person from getting $348.00 a month. Most of the Doctors and bureaucrats make that much in a day. Again, one must ask why so much money is being spent to deprive the poverty-stricken of any kind of meager aid. After reading Hawaii Administrative Rules Title 17, which provide the General Assistances laws it’s obvious: page after page of statutes that force the impoverished to take minimum (slave) wage jobs or be denied government aid. The laws are there to force the poor to work for slave-wages. The government will provide food (SNAP), Medical aid (Medicaid), and homeless shelters to keep slaves healthy enough to work. When you really look at it, the welfare system is designed to provide the wealthy with slave labor.

So what is “Wage Slavery”? The use of the term "wage slavery" is a rhetorical device to draw parallels between modern work and the historical institution of slavery, specifically to chattel slavery where one person owns another person as property. The concept of wage slavery suggests that even where the conditions of chattel slavery do not apply, wage earners may live in conditions that for all practical purposes are identical to the conditions of under chattel slavery. In both cases the slave owners win.

London School of Economics professor David Graeber says: “That private and public bureaucracies, employ thousands of people to make us feel bad about ourselves. Bureaucrats pushing paper decide what we and our work are worth. But somewhat ironically, Graeber suggests, it’s those bureaucrats who perform the most meaningless work of all.” In many cases they have no idea they are just slave traders forcing the poor to work for slave wages.

Since being ruled against at the Fair Hearing, I have been found eligible for DHS again, then discontinued because I supposedly did not follow my treatment plan, Which my doctor have said is not true. Again, what the doctors who are treating me documented has been overruled by Cyrica. I have to file for another “Fair Hearing. It would be funny if it was not life or death for me.

If that was not enough, my medical condition has deteriorated. I’m currently recovering from web implant surgery to correct a problem from other surgery I’ve had in the last year. It is very painful and made much worse having to live in a homeless shelter.

But it will all end soon. If you’re poor on Maui you must win a government lottery to afford housing. I lost in the Dept of Housing and Urban Development HUD lottery for housing assistants last month. It was my last chance to find a way to rent a place before I’m kicked out of KHAKO transitional housing. Despite the thousands of dollars I’ve paid KHAKO and the millions they receive from Government and private funds, the best KHAKO can do after 2 Years is “transition” me back to the being homeless 0n the street where I will not survive. KHAKO has failed to find me a place to live in 2 years. KHAKO kicked out a 70 something year old lady last month who had stay her 2 year limit. This is just the tip of the problem. Yet, KHAKO is considered one of the best homeless shelters in Hawaii. Mainland homeless and ex-cons love it. Local poor people and taxpayers lose out again.

I know that homelessness is a complex problem, but to kick an elderly, sick, sheltered homeless local person back to being unsheltered on the street goes against every homeless solution I’ve ever heard of. This is made worse by the fact that many KHAKO homeless who will take my place are young, healthy, employed or going to college (ever heard of a dorm). Some are just using KHAKO as a cheap way to visit or move to Maui. It doesn’t make sense that I’m being kicked out. I must be missing something.

Homeless are constantly being told they need to be responsible for the bad choices they make. I want to know who is being held responsible for the bad choices that cost our country trillions in unnecessary wars, financial bailouts and mismanaged government that is causing unbelievable suffering, especially for the poor. It seems the people who made these bad choices are doing just fine. Ironically, they buy vacation homes on Maui that were part of the home rental market forcing more poor into homelessness.

I have lived in a one room slum at Ka Hale A Ke Ola (KHAKO) homeless “resource” center that I pay $250.00 a month for, plus doing “chores” for two years now. I’m forced to share my room with a scary, violent, homeless street person from Seattle who likes being homeless here better. My severe, expensive, medical conditions, some of which is directly caused by homelessness, are being paid for by taxpayers. I’m assigned case worker after case worker who have done nothing for me, but do get paid well. Yet, the County of Maui just forgave a $4 million dollar loan to KHAKO that “disappeared” over the years. Why doesn’t the news media investigate that?

All this talk about getting people off the street and into shelters to help them is complete BS. The “supportive services” I’ve received have been a total failure in helping me with my financial, housing and health problems. My situation is worse than when I entered the KHAKO program 2 years ago. KHAKO’s solution is to use the police to force me back to being unsheltered on the street, even though they know that would be dangerous to my health.

Over500 unsheltered homeless people die each year in Hawaii because of mismanagement, incompetence and fraud by the people paid to help the poorest of the poor. DHS, HUD, Maui DHHC, the homeless industry and yes the legislators, all have blood on their hands and have all failed me. There is no reason to solve the homeless problem with so many people making a good living off it. They will keep coming up with new “studies”, plans and programs to make you think they are doing their job, which the media goes along with. The homeless have no voice or political influence.

Sheltered and unsheltered homeless live a brutal 3rd world life whether you believe it or not. We are the collateral damage of the bad choices made by our government and economic system over a long period of time. I will probably suffer a slow, silent, “unattended death” on the street. This is real life and death for me and many others.

As I wrote 2 years ago when I started these articles, I wasn’t sure how this would end. Now I’m pretty sure it will end with my death. Something I thought was possible, but did not really think would happen. At this point it would be the easy way out. I do not want to die, but can take it no longer and see no way to avoid it at this point. What will trigger my death, I can’t say. It could be that KHAKO is kicking me out and I can’t be homeless on the street again. It could be because I’m completely broke because DHS and Cyrica suspended my disability even though I did everything they required of me. It could be because my roommate is continuing to harass me and KHAKO does nothing about it. I could be because my family and friends deserted me. It could be the physical pain from my operation that my PCP has failed to manage. The real reason is probably all of the above and the documentation is all around me. I hold all of the people above partially responsible for my death. They have my blood on their hands and know it. I am another victim of homelessness and the cruelty of man. My body will be thrown in the garbage with the other poor victims.

I hope that at least KHAKO, Maui DHS, and Cyrica will be investigated for the role their incompetence and negligence played in my death so others will not be forced to suffer and die like me, but they probably won’t. This didn’t have to happen. They can’t say they didn’t know. Lucky, I’m a peaceful man, I could have justified a lot of violence, may be the next victims will take a few of the guilt with them.

I feel I was knowingly force into this death march by people who had power over me because of my medical and economic condition. The evidence is all around in files, video, on the web for anyone to find (noshamehawaii.org). This systematic genocide of the poor is real and must be stopped. Hopefully, these articles will remain at Best Thinking as a true testament to the reality of homelessness in America during the beginning of the 21st century.

I’d hope to put these articles together as a real book, but it seems America is not ready for an unsanitized look at homelessness, even on glamorous Maui. Since I know you can’t take it with you, I throw my homeless story out into the universe with the hopes it will help bring about change somehow. At least I tried. I wish I could have done more.

 
Sanford L Hill Identity Verified

About the Author 

Sanford L Hill
I am a renegade, renaissance, Hawaii surfer poet who loves to think, experiment, and create radically outside the box. Born and raised in H

Recent Content by Sanford L Hill

No Shame, The End Game

This will be my last article on being homeless on Maui. It shows that homelessness can kill you, and how broken and brutal our society is when it comes to the poor. I thank all that have read these articles and hope somehow they bring change that saves others from going through what I have. Aloha

The Hygiene Inspection

The Hygiene Inspection By Sanford L. Hill One of the many bizarre rituals residents at the KHAKO homeless shelter must endure, and pay for, is the “Hygiene Inspection”. This routine is a good example of a program that was developed by good intentioned people to solve what they considered a...

Happy New Year Maui

Happy New Year By Sanford L. Hill The January 31th 2014 front page of the Maui News captured life on Maui, and in America, as we begin 2015. I doubt that the two stories were put next to each other intentionally to show the huge divide between the jet set wealthy and older paraplegic poor on the...

 
 
Latest Ebooks