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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 28, 2009

Depots Beach evictions due

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Wai'anae Coast Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Tomorrow, city crews will begin a four-day cleanup along a stretch on the Wai'anae Coast known as Depots Beach in Nanakuli.

The site, which runs approximately three blocks from Ulehawa Beach Park to Lualualei Naval Road, has long been occupied by homeless beach dwellers. Police began posting notices a month ago that the beach must be vacated by tomorrow morning.

The cleanup marks the latest phase of a city effort begun nearly three years ago to move out the homeless along the coast, encourage them to take advantage of shelters or find other housing, and reclaim the beaches and parks for use by the general public.

Service providers charged with encouraging the Depots tent people to enter the state's emergency shelter program system have been out in force in recent days. But their task hasn't been easy.

"Some of these people have been here on the beach for as long as 10 years," said Chantell Kawaauhao, who walked along Depots Beach last week with Marvin Bernard passing out fliers to occupants.

Years ago, Kawaauhao lived on the mountain side of Farrington Highway, directly across from Depots Beach. Today, she recognizes some of the same faces she remembers seeing back then. She and Bernard are with the U.S. Veterans Initiative, the organization that operates the Wai'anae Civic Center emergency shelter in Wai'anae.

"If you are interested in getting off the beach, out of the parks and into a facility where you can begin rebuilding your life, let one of our outreach workers know," the fliers state. "We can assist you today."

But those who have remained on the beaches since the Wai'anae shelter opened on March 1, 2007, are less eager to enter the program than were the newly homeless families who accepted help two years ago. Many remaining beach dwellers are single, middle aged and independent. They are of the type referred to as the chronic homeless.

"I've been on this beach at least a good seven, eight years," said one Depots Beach dweller, who identified himself as Mike B. "I'm trying to make my situation go from worse to better, not better to worse."

The 46-year-old man said that he has worked out any drug problems he once had. As he packed up his belongings and prepared to depart, he seemed stoic about leaving. He said he didn't see the shelter system as an option for him.

Instead, he's worked out a deal to be a caretaker for a friend in exchange for a place to stay. He will also be able to ply his trade as a car detailing expert. His goal is to remain self-sufficient.

"There is space available at the shelters," said Honolulu Police Department Maj. Michael Moses. "But, I guess these would be described as the hard-core people. I mean, we could probably build a shelter right there in the park and they wouldn't go in it if they had to follow some kind of rules and regulations."

Moses said police don't expect any problems or resistance from Depots Beach dwellers. A few may take advantage of the shelter system.

Since October 2006, the city has displaced hundreds of coastal beach dwellers during park improvement projects from Nanakuli Beach Park, to Ma'ili Beach Park, Nani Kai Beach Park, Surfers Beach, Ulehawa Beach Park No. 2 (otherwise known as "7-Elevens"), and Lualualei Beach Park No. 1 (popularly known as "Sewers Beach"). Similar efforts have been conducted in urban Honolulu, at Ala Moana Beach Park and Kapi'olani Park.

The Depots Beach clean-up will follow the same procedure as the others, said Lester Chang, city Parks and Recreation Department director. The beach will be closed to the public throughout the cleanup. By the afternoon of July 2, it will be reopened with posted signs stating that the beach and adjacent parking areas will be closed nightly from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

"We're excited to have it finally cleaned up," said Patty Teruya, who chairs the Nanakuli/Ma'ili Neighborhood Board, which has pressed to have Depots Beach returned to public recreational use.

"Now everyone will be able to use it."