Hawaii is consistently ranked as one of the states where most Americans want to live. But for many residents, the island life is more nightmare than tropical dream. The high cost of living and lack of affordable housing contributes to Hawaii having one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country.
The state government has attempted to address the crisis in ways that are sometimes as creative as they are disturbing. Earlier this year, the state legislature voted to establish a program that would pay for a one-way ticket to send homeless residents to the mainland. The program was dubbed a “return-to-home” program despite the fact that more than half of the homeless population being lifetime residents or people who lived in Hawaii a minimum of 20 years.
But that program created by the state’s lawmakers seems downright compassionate compared to how one individual state lawmaker is addressing the problem. State Rep. Tom Brower (D.) roams the streets of his district armed with a sledgehammer and smashes any shopping carts he finds that are used by the homeless:
f the carts have a store’s insignia still on them, Brower gallantly returns them to the rightful owner. If, however, he can’t tell where the carts originated from, he pulls out his trusty sledgehammer.
“If I see shopping carts that I can’t identify,” he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “I will destroy them so they can’t be pushed on the streets.”
(Before you judge, note that he kindly takes out any belongings in the carts and leaves them on the ground where he found them.)
Brower, according to the Star-Advertiser, is “disgusted” by the city’s chronic homelessness problem and has decided to take a self-proclaimed “tough-guy” approach to solving it. In addition to his shopping cart rampage, he also rouses homeless people if he sees them sleeping at bus stops during the day.
“If someone is sleeping at night on the bus stop, I don’t do anything,” he told the Star-Advertiser. “But if they are sleeping during the day, I’ll walk up and say, ‘Get your ass moving.’”
The media reports do not explain why Rep. Brower has not yet been arrested for destroying private property that he finds in non-public spaces. Presumably, a sledgehammer-wielding homeless man would be thrown in jail for carrying out the same actions. But apparently the power and privilege of being a lawmaker exempts Brower from the laws, both natural and civil, that apply to common citizens.
We should pray for the homeless men and women in Hawaii. Being without shelter is not only an indignity and hardship but compounds just about every other adversity that can befall a human being.
However, we should pray even more intently for the men and women, like Brower, who are infected by hatred for their fellow man. If there is one affliction even worse than being homeless, it’s living inside the self-made prison of hate.
Update: The negative response to his actions has lead Brower to put away his sledgehammer.