Friday, March 2, 2018


A woman outside my local grocery store asks me for money. "Excuse me, do you have fifty cents?" she asks every time she sees me. I give it to her every single time--fifty cents or whatever change I  have. Sometimes a dollar.   It doesn't matter to her that whenever she sees me I'm hustling to get myself and my two children out of the car and into the store; it matters even less if I'm coming out of the store with heavy bags in addition to the two children I went in with, again, hustling about the car.  If she sees me, she asks.  In fact, she knows our car, her lackadaisical energy shifting toward jittery anticipation if she sees it pull up.

This happens every other month or so.

In the meantime, I see her walk up and down the street--the main one that runs through town--with a tip toey gait, her limited mental capacity evident in her very existence.  She's an intriguing person, one of the many homeless who occupy Oahu, Hawaiian by ethnicity and "local" by affiliation. Lacking a house but not without shelter, she's categorized as homeless right along with so many others who reside in this state and lives in a nearby tent community. But unlike so many others, she's almost always hands-free--never pushing a cart or repurposed stroller. No purse or backpack.  From time to time she can be seen with a bag of food or a soda, the fruits of her face-to-face crowdfunding efforts.  Always sufficiently clothed in clean garments, her demeanor resembles that of an unpopular teenager sent out into the world daily for ultimate achievement before calling it quits.

Hawai'i's largest homeless/houseless encampment is two minutes from my residence.  It extends throughout the clusters of trees pictured in the background.  Photo courtesy of Cory Lum ,

The last time I saw her outside the store she requested change, and I had a request of my own.

"What's your name?" I asked.

"Corinna," She replied, in a manner much like that of an innocent child uncertain of what was to come.

I handed her the change then wished her a good day as I walked away with my girls.

When she catches my eye these days stepping up and down the main road, I think to myself, "There goes Corrina," in a pseudo-familiar way, knowing our next encounter is soon to occur.

Homelessness is a big issue in Hawai'i.  It's a subject of constant discussion and debate.  It afflicts mentally challenged individuals like Corrina as well as those of sound mental capacity who work a job each day and are described with the acronym ALICE.  (This mostly has to do with a high cost of living and low wages.)  To the benefit of those who find themselves in such a predicament, there are numerous generous efforts to improve quality of life for state residents who find themselves living in a car or using a tent or other makeshift covering as shelter on city sidewalks and in public parks.  The most recent of these is a project called HieHie (based on a Hawaiian concept that deals with appearance.)

HieHie (pronounced hee-eh hee-eh) is a mobile hygiene facility that drives to different parts of O'ahu giving homeless individuals 20 minutes to go inside, take a shower, and take advantage of other amenities relating to cleanliness and hygiene. The project took two years to complete and was funded by donations.  I find this very interesting, and it's good to know and witness yet again that people do care.  It's only a small factor in the bigger issue affecting the state, but I'm sure it will have a positive impact on the day-to-day lives of many. 

You can read more about it at

*Mālama is a concept that means to take care of, serve, protect with compassion

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