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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 9, 2006

Seeking a safe haven for the houseless in the park

By Leinati Matautia

Michael Oliver napped on the Punchbowl Street sidewalk near Honolulu Hale after an overnight stay there last month. Oliver was one of dozens of Ala Moana Beach Park evictees who marched to City Hall.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Members of the Homeless Council, including Leinati Matautia can be seen on 'Olelo Channel 54, "Justice for the Houseless," on April 30 at 8 a.m., May 5 at 1 p.m. and May 17 at 6 p.m. Reach Matautia at leinatimatautia@hotmail.com.

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Aloha kakou. We are the voice of the voiceless.

For too long, others have spoken on our behalf, but today we will strive to speak for ourselves, so that the broader community will come to know us better.

We are houseless, living in Hawai'i nei. We call ourselves "houseless," because we do have a home: Hawai'i nei. We are a part of this community, we have cousins and siblings and parents here, we work here, and all of us pay taxes. Many of us have genealogies that trace back to this very 'aina.

Many have also come to Hawai'i seeking a better life, improved healthcare or better-paying jobs. We have formed a committee to let the public know how the houseless are being treated, and how we can achieve real solutions. We speak these words in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands in Hawai'i who are but one paycheck away from houselessness one domestic disagreement, one house fire, one illness, one natural disaster away from being houseless as well.

Rents are increasing so quickly that even those who were managing to find rent money are now finding it almost impossible. The mayor and governor need to be aware that the problems which we experience are felt by families throughout Hawai'i. We need to address the root of the problems of inequity and poverty.

We need rent-controlled housing and more shelters instead of million-dollar condos. We also need a place where houseless people can be sheltered without getting wet and being bothered by police, where we have access to clean toilets and showers, and a place to store our belongings (lockers).

Since Mayor Mufi Hannemann evicted many of us from Ala Moana Beach Park, we have developed a system of self-reliance. We police ourselves, cook for ourselves, clean up after ourselves. Thanks to the generosity of Kawaiaha'o Church, the many donations and those who have used civil disobedience to advance the human rights of the houseless, we have achieved a degree of empowerment that the welfare model could never help us achieve. This kind of safe haven a pu'uhonua should be made permanent in different regions all over O'ahu and on our Neighbor Islands.

To all of our supporters: Thank you for all your honks while we continue to picket in front of City Hall. We will continue to do our educational picket on the corner of Punchbowl and King streets until the mayor gives us the green light to return to Ala Moana Park.

We want to remain a family. We ask all supporters to immediately call Mayor Hannemann and request a safe haven in Ala Moana park starting as soon as possible.

We appreciate all your daily calls to the mayor for a Safe Haven (a small section of Ala Moana Park, for example, Magic Island, with lockers, showers, bathrooms). Call the mayor and urge him to negotiate with us.

We also call for the end of Act 50 (which gives police the power to evict campers and others from public parks) so that we can sleep peacefully with no harassment and ticketing by the police.

To end Act 50, please call your state legislators right away, since they are now deciding whether to continue Act 50 or to rescind it.