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From a Homeless Shelter in Honolulu to a Good Life in Virginia
Hilton Moore spent years in and out of a homeless shelter in the capital before finding more opportunity and a lower cost of living on the mainland. He wants others to know a more rewarding life awaits.

About the Author

  • Hilton Moore
    After spending seven years struggling on Oahu, Hilton Moore says he is engaged in financial markets trading in Virginia and renting an affordable home on a large patch of land.

Living in the islands, it is harder to make ends meet in the islands than some people might realize. The cost of rent, even just for a bedroom, is ridiculous. And if you want to sleep with fewer bugs, then you have to pay more rent. I know this from personal experience.

When I lived in Hawaii, between 2007 and 2014, I realized that the state is being destroyed, partly by people I think of as modern real estate pirates. Some are speculators who buy houses and apartments to rent out without ever living in them. When I was renting, I saw some of these pirate-landlords do terrible things.

The high rents are part of why, when I was working as a security guard at Louis Vuitton on Kalakaua Avenue and earning $10 an hour, I was actually living off and on in an Institute for Human Services homeless shelter. That situation lasted for four years.

I felt a pressure to be good enough to make it in Hawaii. Part of me didn’t want to leave the islands. But my pocket book didn’t agree, and it won.

I am typing these words from Virginia, a state where land is cheap and the women are just as beautiful as they are in Hawaii. Part of that has to do with Virginia’s growing racial diversity.

The ego of many residents is keeping them from leaving the islands. They should get over it, like I did. They can live a much better life in a cheaper place on the mainland.

Being a black man and all, I also like it here because Virginia has a strong black history. There are a lot of African Americans who do very well here. There are also a lot of actual Africans, from different parts of Africa, who do very well here too.

There are Asians, whites and racially mixed people. There are even Hawaiians in this old state. I already met five from the Big Island and Oahu, as well as people from Polynesia. I even met a few Micronesians. Virginia has it all, and I love it.

It turns out that Hawaii isn’t the only place with beautiful waterways. Virginia is green and full of lakes and big bodies of fresh water with plenty of fish.

Hilton Moore on his land

Moore is enjoying the home in Virginia where he pays $700 per month for a house on two acres of land with a swimming pool.

Why I Moved

The ego of many residents is keeping them from leaving the islands. They should get over it, like I did. They can live a much better life in a cheaper place on the mainland.

Look, I loved Hawaii, and I still do. But I realized that Oahu is overbuilding. The cost of food and utilities, not to mention the price of land, housing and having a car will only become more inflated over time. (The cost of buying a house where I live now is barely enough for a down payment on any home on Oahu.)

I thought about the future of Hawaii. I saw that even if a person works 80 hours a week, high prices make it feel as though their paycheck is based on 40 hours a week, or less.

Good weather and balmy sunshine is no reason to stay, broke and homeless, and in fear of not being able to afford a bus pass to get to a job you hate.

The cost of living will keep rising. More and more people will either move to Hawaii and get stuck there because they don’t have enough money to fly home to the mainland, or they will bring enough money to cause more inflation in housing, which causes more homelessness. Worsening homelessness means the crime rate will go up.

More people means more pollution. More people means importing more cars to Hawaii, which means more traffic. In other words, a lot of things will continue to worsen.

All for what? Good weather and balmy sunshine is no reason to stay, broke and homeless, and in fear of not being able to afford a bus pass to get to a job you hate.

Compare that to my life here. I rent a 2,800 square-foot house with pool on two acres of land. My rent is $700 per month.  Yes, $700. Hawaii may have nice beaches and palm trees, but how can any island, in any part of Hawaii, compete with that?

“Paradise,” as I personally discovered, is just a marketing fart burped out of politicians’ and their marketing gurus’ mouths so contractors can continue turning Honolulu into a jungle made of cement and reflecting glass. It is a way to sell more over-hyped, overpriced apartments where people are stacked on top of each other like sardines in a can.

A real paradise is one that encourages you, one that allows you to live a high-quality life where you don’t have to live in fear that “TheBus” might raise their $60 monthly ticket to $70 the next month. It is a place where you don’t have to buy a bicycle and leave your car on the side of the road because you can’t afford the car insurance to drive it.

I do miss Hawaii’s natural beauty, but I found that there’s natural beauty everywhere on earth. And being in Hawaii is no reason to throw all logic and common sense away when it comes understanding there’s a better life, either on the mainland or in another country.

“Paradise,” as I personally discovered, is just a marketing fart burped out of politicians’ and their marketing gurus’ mouths so contractors can overbuild on Oahu.

There is no more middle class in Hawaii. You are either rich or poor.

I hope and wish that more people living in Hawaii will wake up. Many of them should move to another place that will free them from the financial pressure.

This story was inspired by Civil Beat Deputy Editor Eric Pape’s recounting of Mark Heilbron’s story about leaving Hawaii and moving to Panama. It tears to my eyes to see that someone other than myself understood the truth for so many people who live on Oahu.

To his regret, it took Mark, 20 years to leave. It took me seven years to figure out I needed to get the hell out of Hawaii. My ego may still want to move back to Hawaii, to show I can make it there, but I am the ruler, not my ego.

Do you have a story about the human impact of the cost of living in the islands? If so, click on the red pencil button to share it through Connections, or drop a note to epape@civilbeat.com.

And join Civil Beat’s Facebook group on the cost of living in Hawaii to continue the conversation about this story, or to discuss broader practical and political solutions for the islands.