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Kalihi is a diverse neighborhood on the island of Oahu in Hawaii that is home to a large population of Native Hawaiians, immigrants and low-income residents.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: While Kalihi has historically struggled with poverty and crime, and fits some stereotypes of a “ghetto”, the neighborhood and its residents are far more complex than any label. Kalihi has rich cultural traditions, a strong sense of community and neighborhood pride.

In this approximately 3000 word article, we will take an in-depth look at Kalihi’s history, demographics, reputation, challenges with crime and poverty as well as signs of revitalization.

We will examine how Kalihi both aligns with and defies the “ghetto” stereotype to provide a nuanced understanding of this unique Honolulu neighborhood.

Brief History of Kalihi


Kalihi, located on the island of Oahu, is a neighborhood in Honolulu, Hawaii. It has a rich history that dates back to its origins as a rural area outside of Honolulu.

Origins as Rural Area Outside Honolulu

In the early days, Kalihi was primarily an agricultural area consisting of rice and taro fields, as well as fish ponds.

The land was owned by the Hawaiian monarchy and was divided into smaller parcels that were leased out to farmers.

This rural setting provided sustenance for the local community and played a significant role in shaping the neighborhood’s identity.

Development in the Early 20th Century

During the early 20th century, Kalihi underwent a period of rapid development. With the advent of the sugar industry, many laborers moved to the area to work in the nearby plantations.

This influx of people led to the establishment of schools, churches, and other community infrastructure.

The construction of the Oahu Railway and Land Company’s train line further connected Kalihi to the rest of the island, facilitating transportation and trade.

Post-WWII Growth

Following World War II, Kalihi experienced a surge in population as returning soldiers and their families settled in the area. The demand for housing resulted in the construction of numerous residential developments.

The growth of the military presence in nearby Pearl Harbor also contributed to the neighborhood’s expansion.

Today, Kalihi is a vibrant and diverse community that continues to evolve. Its rich history and cultural heritage are celebrated by its residents, making it a unique and interesting neighborhood to explore.

Also read: What Are The 11 Military Bases In Hawaii?

Demographic Makeup and Diversity

Kalihi, Hawaii is a neighborhood known for its diverse population and rich cultural heritage. The demographic makeup of Kalihi is a fascinating blend of various ethnicities, contributing to its vibrant community.

Large Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Population

One notable aspect of the demographic makeup of Kalihi is the large Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population.

This community has deep roots in the area, and their presence is evident in the cultural celebrations, music, and food that can be experienced throughout the neighborhood.

The strong sense of community among the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander residents adds to the unique charm of Kalihi.

Immigrant Communities

Kalihi is also home to several immigrant communities, which further enriches its diversity.

Immigrants from countries such as the Philippines, Japan, China, and Korea have made Kalihi their home, bringing their traditions, languages, and cuisines with them.

This cultural exchange creates a vibrant tapestry of different cultures, fostering a sense of global unity within the neighborhood.

Also read: Why Are There So Many Asians In Hawaii?

Socioeconomic Struggles

While Kalihi is known for its cultural diversity, it also faces certain socioeconomic challenges. The neighborhood has a higher poverty rate compared to other areas in Hawaii.

This disparity can be attributed to various factors, including limited job opportunities, lack of affordable housing, and inadequate access to educational resources.

However, it is important to note that the community is actively working towards addressing these issues and improving the overall quality of life for its residents.

For more information on the demographics of Kalihi, you can visit the official U.S. Census Bureau website:

Reputation as Honolulu’s ‘Ghetto’

Kalihi, a neighborhood in Honolulu, Hawaii, has gained a reputation over the years as being the city’s ‘ghetto’.

This label has often been associated with high poverty and crime rates, dilapidated public housing, prevalence of homelessness, and limited resources.

However, it is important to take an in-depth look at the neighborhood to understand the complexities and challenges it faces.

High Poverty and Crime Rates

Kalihi does have higher poverty rates compared to other areas in Honolulu. According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate in Kalihi is 13,1%, which is above the national average.

This can be attributed to a variety of factors, including limited job opportunities, lack of affordable housing, and limited access to quality education and healthcare.

However, it is crucial to note that poverty and crime rates should not define an entire neighborhood or its residents.

There are many hardworking individuals and families in Kalihi who are working towards improving their circumstances and creating a better future for themselves and their community.

Also read: What Is The Crime Rate In Hawaii?

Dilapidated Public Housing

Kalihi is known for its older public housing complexes, some of which are in need of significant repairs and renovations.

While this may contribute to the perception of the neighborhood as ‘ghetto’, it is important to understand the challenges faced by public housing authorities in maintaining these complexes.

Limited funding and resources often make it difficult to address all the necessary repairs in a timely manner.

Efforts are being made to improve the conditions of public housing in Kalihi, but it is a complex issue that requires long-term solutions and community involvement.

Also read: How Much Does It Cost To Buy A House In Hawaii?

Prevalence of Homelessness

Like many other urban areas, Kalihi also faces challenges related to homelessness. The lack of affordable housing options and limited resources for mental health and addiction services contribute to this issue.

It is important to approach homelessness with compassion and understanding, recognizing that individuals experiencing homelessness are often facing a multitude of challenges.

Organizations and community initiatives are working towards providing support and resources to those in need, but it remains an ongoing issue that requires collective efforts.

Food Desert and Limited Resources

Kalihi has been classified as a food desert, meaning that residents have limited access to fresh and affordable food options. This can have significant implications for the health and well-being of the community.

Efforts are being made to address this issue through initiatives such as community gardens and farmers markets.

Additionally, limited resources in terms of healthcare facilities and educational institutions can pose challenges for residents.

However, it is important to highlight the resilience and resourcefulness of the community members who work together to overcome these obstacles and create a sense of unity and support.

Signs of Renewal and Progress


Despite its previous reputation, Kalihi, Hawaii is experiencing a significant transformation and showing signs of renewal and progress.

The neighborhood is undergoing positive changes that are improving the quality of life for its residents and attracting new investments.

New Mixed-Income Housing Developments

One of the most noticeable signs of renewal in Kalihi is the emergence of new mixed-income housing developments.

These projects are aimed at providing affordable housing options for low-income families while also integrating higher-income residents into the community.

These developments not only improve the physical appearance of the neighborhood but also contribute to the social and economic diversity of Kalihi.

An example of such a development is the recently completed Halekauwila Place Apartments. This mixed-income housing project offers a range of housing options, from affordable rentals to market-rate units.

The inclusion of amenities such as community centers, parks, and green spaces further enhances the neighborhood’s appeal and fosters a sense of community among its residents.

Also read: A Complete Guide On Applying For Affordable Housing In Hawaii

Business Growth and Cultural Attractions

Another positive indicator of Kalihi’s progress is the growth of businesses and cultural attractions in the area.

Local entrepreneurs and small business owners are starting to invest in Kalihi, bringing new services and products to the neighborhood. This not only creates job opportunities for residents but also contributes to the overall economic vitality of the area.

Kalihi is also home to several cultural attractions that celebrate the rich heritage and diversity of the neighborhood.

The Kalihi-Palama Culture & Arts Society, for example, organizes events and exhibits that showcase the traditions and talents of the local community.

These cultural attractions not only attract visitors but also instill a sense of pride and appreciation among residents for their neighborhood’s unique identity.

Neighborhood Pride and Resilience

Perhaps one of the most inspiring signs of renewal in Kalihi is the growing sense of neighborhood pride and resilience.

Despite its past challenges, the community has shown remarkable strength and determination in overcoming adversity. Residents have come together to address issues such as crime, poverty, and dilapidated infrastructure.

Community organizations and nonprofits, such as the Kalihi Valley Instructional Bike Exchange, have played a crucial role in empowering residents and fostering a sense of ownership over the neighborhood’s future.

Through initiatives like community clean-ups, educational programs, and job training, these organizations are empowering residents to take an active role in shaping the future of Kalihi.

Furthermore, residents of Kalihi are actively engaged in promoting their neighborhood’s positive aspects and dispelling negative stereotypes.

Social media platforms and community websites have become platforms for sharing stories and showcasing the vibrant culture and resilient spirit of Kalihi.

This collective effort has not only improved the perception of the neighborhood but also encouraged residents to take pride in their community and work towards its continued growth and improvement.

The Complex Reality of Kalihi Today

Kalihi, a neighborhood in Honolulu, Hawaii, has long been associated with negative stereotypes and perceptions.

However, it is important to recognize that the reality of Kalihi today is much more complex and nuanced than these stereotypes suggest.

While challenges persist, the community is also home to a rich history and vibrant culture that should not be overlooked.

Persistence of Stereotypes

Unfortunately, stereotypes about Kalihi as a “ghetto” continue to persist, painting a one-dimensional picture of the neighborhood.

These stereotypes often overlook the many positive aspects of the community and the individuals who call it home.

It is essential to challenge these stereotypes and instead focus on the diverse experiences and stories that make up the fabric of Kalihi.

One way to challenge these stereotypes is by examining the statistical data related to crime rates and poverty levels in Kalihi. While it is true that the neighborhood has faced its share of challenges, it is important to recognize that crime rates have been decreasing in recent years.

This positive trend indicates that efforts to improve safety and security in the community are making a difference.

Remaining Challenges

Like any community, Kalihi does face its fair share of challenges. Issues such as affordable housing, access to quality education, and economic opportunities continue to be areas of concern.

However, it is crucial to approach these challenges with a balanced perspective and recognize the resilience and strength of the community in the face of adversity.

Efforts are being made to address these challenges and uplift the community. Local organizations, community leaders, and residents are working together to create positive change and improve the quality of life in Kalihi.

By highlighting these efforts, we can shift the narrative and focus on the progress being made.

Rich History and Culture

Beyond the challenges, Kalihi boasts a rich history and vibrant culture that should not be overlooked.

The neighborhood has deep roots in Hawaiian and immigrant communities, which have shaped its unique character.

From traditional Hawaiian practices to diverse cultural festivals, Kalihi is a place where different traditions and identities converge.

Exploring the history and culture of Kalihi can provide valuable insights into the community’s resilience and vibrant spirit.

From ancient Hawaiian fishponds to historic landmarks, there are numerous opportunities to learn about and appreciate the heritage of this neighborhood. Kalihi’s cultural richness is a testament to the strength and diversity of its residents.

Also read: Hawaii Jobs With Housing Provided – A Comprehensive Guide


In conclusion, while Kalihi continues to grapple with socioeconomic hardships and a reputation as Honolulu’s ‘ghetto’, the neighborhood has great cultural richness, diversity and resilience.

Revitalization efforts show promise, but the area still faces uphill battles with poverty, homelessness and access to resources.

The full story of Kalihi encompasses both the struggles of a historically marginalized community as well as the strong sense of identity that makes it a unique part of Hawaii’s capital city.

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