HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two years ago, Hawaii News Now executives approached a pair of documentary filmmakers and asked them to help tell the story of Hawaii's growing homeless crisis.
Thousands of hours of footage later, the special 90-minute, commercial-free documentary, "No Room in Paradise," debuts Wednesday at 8 p.m. on KGMB.
"No Room in Paradise" is an intimate and raw look at the struggles Hawaii's homeless face -- and the solutions needed to address the crisis. Hawaii has the highest per capita homeless population in the nation, and more than half of Hawaii's homeless are unsheltered.
Filmmakers Anthony Aalto and Mike Hinchey of Green Island Films say it's no secret what's driving Hawaii's growing homeless population: A lack of affordable housing and services. The question they set out to answer is why more affordable housing isn't being made available.
"We came to the conclusion that there wasn't enough political will, and there wasn't enough political will because the public at large wasn't really particularly sympathetic," Aalto said. "That was the point that we realized that what we had to do was allow the homeless to tell their own stories so that people could see them as human beings and that would engender the compassion and empathy to help us as a community start dealing with this problem."
Hinchey added, "The film shows that homeless folks are just like you and me and for a lot of part they've just hit unfortunate times and need some help out."
Hawaii News Now General Manager Rick Blangiardi says he hopes the documentary will serve as a major wake-up call -- and an opportunity for greater community understanding.
"This gives you a chance to not just drive by and see people from a distance or through a windshield who are homeless -- this really brings you into their lives and the challenges and frustrations and setbacks and the many different tiers, if you will, of homelessness," Blangiardi said.
Aalto and Hinchey shot from Honolulu's streets and sidewalks in hopes of capturing the real-life experiences of unsheltered individuals and families. It was a personal experience for the filmmakers, who often ended up buying meals, clothing, even tents for some of the subjects in the film.
"To get that close to somebody and to see them start to touch that pain without being affected yourself, I think there were times where we were choking back tears ourselves. There's no question," Aalto said.
Aalto and Hinchey were committed to seeing the project through and with help from the community, their efforts were realized.
The two biggest contributors toward the making of the documentary were The Queen's Medical Center and Hawaii Pacific Health. Other companies also pitched in, including Stanford Carr Development, which helped raise over $180,000.
"We hope that it will cause the political will for everyone to roll up their sleeves and to take some action and collaborate with one another to deal with the problems head on. We need to have an action plan to deal with this," Carr said.
Blangiardi said, "We need to do something about this. This is antithetical to what Hawaii especially is about, but even as human beings. There is so much suffering going on and seemingly a lack of compassion to really want to be able to help these people."
"No Room in Paradise" will re-air Oct. 30, from 7-8:30 p.m on KHNL; Nov. 5, from 8:30-10 p.m. on KGMB and Nov. 13, from 8-9:30 p.m. on KHNL.