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The Honolulu Advertiser
Updated at 10:28 a.m., Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Waimanalo park closes

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

WAIMANALO — Today marks the official closure of the campground at Waimanalo Beach Park for three months of renovation and the dozens of homeless people living there have found a temporary haven at the Waimanalo Hawaiian Homes Association center across the street from the park.

Last night, association members agreed to allow the homeless campers to stay at their facility for two weeks as long as they adhere to 11 rules and pay a $10 fee for water and electricity, said Lavina Aina spokeswoman for the campers.

"One mistake, whatevers, and they out," said Aina, who was elected to speak for the campers and will enforce the rules that include no drinking, drug use and fighting and no visitors after 9 p.m.

The accommodations will allow the campers time to process the paperwork necessary to live in a shelter.

Yesterday, the campgrounds were already empty with fewer than a dozen people milling around the park, including social service workers and people who had been living out of vehicles parked at the campground.

They met in pairs and small groups, discussing the future and spreading the word about options available to them.

By noon, seven had applied for entry to One Malu, the emergency shelter at Kalaeloa.

But with some shelters full and others requiring two weeks to process applications, it appeared that many of those who had left the park would end up on another beach or in another beach park.

City officials have not said how they will enforce the closure, and they did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

The Waimanalo Neighborhood Board had requested the closure, and continued to look for options for the homeless over the weekend. On Friday, the board held a community meeting to discuss the park renovation and homeless situation, but no solutions emerged.

Kailua resident and community activist Shannon Wood said consensus had been reached to reaffirm the city's park project and agree there was a problem with homelessness that the renovation would not solve.

Some felt that the homeless were choosing to live on the beach, but Wood said the issue was much larger.

"It's a mix of Hawaiian rights, social justice and taking care of people," she said. "It's not a simple issue."

Board member Andrew Jamila Jr. said alternatives had been offered, such as Sherwood beach park in Waimanalo, but the campers refused.

Not only does Waimanalo Beach Park need work, Jamila said, but the campsite was getting out of control. He said campers were not bothering to apply for permits and were intimidating people who had them.

"We just wanted the park back for the community as a whole," he said.

Yesterday, Poki Kekuewa, 67, planned to ask the Waimanalo Hawaiian Homes Association if the homeless could park or camp in the old quarry across from the beach park, which falls under the association's jurisdiction.

Nani Ryan, 44, who has been homeless for about a year, said the old quarry "would be a dream come true."

Ryan, who said her diabetes interferes with being able to hold a job, wants to stay in Waimanalo.

"All my important things are here: my welfare, my medical, my doctor," she said.

Members of the Honolulu Community Action Program and Wai'anae Outreach Community were at the park pavilion yesterday taking applications to assess the needs of the homeless and hopefully find them temporary shelter, said Danette Rayford, HCAP community service manager.

Tony Sang, first vice president of the Hawaiian Homes Association, said if the campers need more time, the association would be willing to negotiate with them. Much will depend on how they behave, Sang said.

Ed Suka, an HCAP board member, said agencies could have eased the transition if they had been notified about the renovation earlier.

"No one ever gives us the time," said Suka, a volunteer. "Then it becomes an emergency. Then the urgency turns into conflict."

Hawaiian activist Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele said he and villagers from Pu'uhonua o Waimanalo had camped at the beach park recently and spoken to some of the homeless there.

In the early 1990s, Kanahele and others occupied land at Makapu'u until they successfully negotiated with the state for a 55-year lease on 45 acres of land in Waimanalo. Kanahele said the plight of the homeless today is different from those he lived with, but they have one thing in common.

"It boils down to one thing — choices," Kanahele said. "Choose to make it better, or choose exactly to be where they are right now."

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.