Ma'ili homeless move on
|Homeless leave beach gallery|
|Video: Ma'ili Beach Park cleared of homeless|
By Will Hoover
Advertiser Leeward O'ahu Writer
By Will Hoover
WAI'ANAE — Suddenly, Ma'ili Beach was empty.
The tent city by the sea that symbolized Wai'anae's homeless crisis had been vacated.
Gone were the dozens of ragged tents and hundreds of homeless occupants whom residents had grown accustomed to seeing for a couple of years.
The beach dwellers had been ordered out weeks ago, and yesterday was D-Day, when city crews moved in to clean up the beach and park and reclaim it for use by the general public. It was like other such situations over the years when the homeless were periodically asked to move on.
This time, though, they had someplace to go other than another beach, another park.
An estimated 80 percent of the 150 homeless at Ma'ili Beach ended up going to Pai'olu Kaiaulu, the state's new 24-hour emergency shelter nearby. Some went when the facility first opened, others last week and this week due in part to an aggressive outreach effort from the shelter's operators.
All in all, state officials and service providers were happy with that response. They never expected that all the homeless would enter the shelter.
"I can tell you that as of today we have 54 households at the shelter — 92 adults and 40 children — and the majority of them are from Ma'ili Beach," said Darryl Vincent, head of U.S. Vets Hawaii, which manages the shelter. And he said the 300-bed shelter expects to persuade others from the beach to come over.
Yesterday's vacating of Ma'ili Beach and the recent opening of Wai'anae's emergency shelter are viewed as genuine progress in a tragic saga that has had few high points.
Still, no one is pretending that the homeless crisis has been solved.
For example, while no tent encampments remained at Ma'ili Beach, hundreds can still be seen for miles in each direction of the park.
And a small percentage of the Ma'ili Beach tent people said they preferred to resettle to another beach up or down the coast because they aren't interested in following the rules at Pai'olu Kaiaulu.
FOR SOME, RULES ARE OK
Former beach dweller and pure Hawaiian Alice Greenwood, 61, who now lives at the shelter with her adopted son, Makalii, bristled at those who say they can't abide by the rules.
"This thing about following the rules — even if you live out here on the beach — you still have to follow rules," said Greenwood, who showed up at Ma'ili Beach before sunrise yesterday to encourage the hesitant to join her at the shelter.
"I don't care where you go, you still have to conform to whatever's happening — even in your particular area. You don't own it. It belongs to everyone."
Liz Evangelista, 64, who also is 100 percent Hawaiian, added: "The rules don't bother me. I just do what I have to do."
SOLUTION STILL DEBATED
State officials and residents know that providing truly affordable rentals and housing to area residents is a big part of what's needed to solve the problem.
How to accomplish that remains a hotly debated topic.
Yesterday, though, there was no question that all were relieved there had been a peaceful end to the situation at Ma'ili Beach.
A potential confrontation between authorities and homeless people was averted when all but one of the few remaining beach inhabitants had pulled up stakes by early yesterday.
Backed by 20 representatives of the Hawaiian Kingdom Government, the lone beach holdout, Marlene Anduha, 52, who is part Hawaiian, vowed before authorities arrived, "They aren't going to break me, and they aren't going to make me leave my land."
The two dozen Honolulu police officers who began arriving at 7:30 a.m. were prepared for anything.
But HPD District 8 Maj. Michael Moses greeted Anduha with a warm aloha, and then he and his officers quietly moved to the sidelines, saying police were sensitive to the community's anxiety about the homeless issue.
While the largely Hawaiian community wants its beaches back, he said it also wants to be understanding to its less fortunate homeless members, many of whom are family and friends.
"We're taking a very methodical, slow approach with this particular beach cleanup," Moses said.
He said HPD was simply there to support the more than 100 city crew members who were there to refurbish the park. If Anduha chose not to go, she would be arrested for obstructing the cleanup efforts, a misdemeanor. She would not be cited for illegal camping, he said.
But by 9:45 a.m., after a long discussion with city spokesman Bill Brennan, Anduha and her supporters tore down her tent and she departed.
"I feel I've made my point without getting arrested," she said, pointing to the dozens of onlookers, reporters and government representatives at the park.
Anduha, who said she would stay with her sister, credited Brennan with changing her mind.
"That man, he's got compassion for us," she said.
Lester Chang, director of the city's Department of Parks and Recreation, said crews would continue the cleanup throughout the week.
"Our goal is to turn it back to public use this weekend," he said.
Reach Will Hoover at firstname.lastname@example.org.