People talk about prostitutes “escaping” the streets. In my experience, people can’t stay away from downtown. They miss it. I don’t know about other places, but in Honolulu, it’s not that dangerous here. I mean, yes, you will absolutely have all of your stuff stolen if you live on the street. Come to think of it, if you are separated from your belongings in any way, like leaving them in your car, you will experience theft. As they say in the American south, this is the stealingest place I have ever encountered. Yet, I never worried about my physical safety. I hear rumors of the influence of high level organized crime I have heard of the Japanese Yakuza or what the local equivalent that Hawaiians call the Syndicate. These are powerful players controlling politics and bulk drug transmission. You would never expect to see anyone from those groups sitting on the sidewalk with the homeless. The people you see who look like they are homeless are not all without dwellings. Social workers help people get services, get off the street, and once the get an apartment there is a big surprise. Crushing loneliness. No one ever talks about how it feels to transition from the street to living by yourself in a box. On the street I can sit with any group of people. There are no fences. No one has the right to tell anyone else to leave a public area, and I have never seen people make a stranger go away. If they think the person is an undercover cop, the people will leave rather than risk angering the police by getting territorial. When people get older, lose mobility, and are confined to one of those wheelchair/scooters, they are daily fixtures in the areas with level sidewalks. There’s an area in downtown called Hotel Street where most of the busses pass through. Hotel Street has a rich history of prostitution, at first catering to World War II enlisted men. Today this street (that also runs through the heart of the small and bustling Chinatown) is being gentrified. Some self important hip bars and trendy eateries now exist within view of what used to be crack cocaine central where addicts privately smoked drugs in tiny 24 hour establishments full of booths where miniature tv screens played porn for 25 cents a minute. The peep shows are gone but the mentally ill remain as well as the dope dealers and addicted homeless
Right along the bus line you’ll see a stop called Fort Street mall. There are stores and lots of people hanging out. A few are homeless but most are not. Maybe they sell dope there. Or maybe they come to visit. After years of doing drugs people can lack longstanding relationships with regular people. The street is one place a person can go where they have to let him in. Isn’t that the definition of home?
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