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Thursday, February 8, 2001

By Gary Kubota, Star-Bulletin
The tight housing market has forced families
on Maui to live on beaches.

Maui families
must vacate
beach park

But housing on Maui is so
tight that many may move
to other beaches

By Gary Kubota

KAHULUI, Maui -- Several families living at Kanaha Beach Park are planning to move by tomorrow -- the deadline set by the county to leave the park. But many say they'll probably move to other beaches because they can't find affordable housing in a tight Maui market.

"There isn't anything that's feasible out there," said Anna Kaikala, holding her 10-month-old girl in her arms. "The housing situation is so bad."

Some 40 homeless people, including about 24 children, have lived in pitched tents and under strung tarpaulins for months in a 10-acre area on the west side of the park.

A number of families have animals, some ducks and dogs, including pit bulls chained near their tents. There are garbage cans piled with rubbish and flies in some areas.

County officials plan to clear the former camp ground starting at 8 a.m. tomorrow. County spokeswoman Karlynn Kawahara said police will enforce the notice to vacate the sites and will issue citations to anyone resisting it. Kawahara said the state health officials have warned that the campgrounds and restroom facilities are unsanitary and pose a health risk.

"The fact there's human feces all over the place doesn't suggest its a safe place," she said. "The incidences of crime have also been a concern."

Homeless families said a few people have failed to clean up their camp sites and contributed to sanitation problems.

A number of the homeless said they were grateful that Mayor James Apana waited until after the holidays to serve the notice and waived the daily $3-per-person camping fees for the past three months, in hopes of helping them to save enough money to rent a home.

Since the county issued the notice on Jan. 17, three families have left.

Parks director Floyd Miyazono said officials will review whether to reopen the campgrounds a month or two from now, after the area has been made sanitary. He said the county is considering improving the area by filling in the low ground susceptible to flooding and installing picnic tables and barbecue areas.

Kawahara said state and county officials have been at the camp grounds at least once a week since September, assisting the homeless and trying to help them find housing.

But officials acknowledged finding housing hasn't been easy.

Rents in some areas of Maui have increased by hundreds of dollars in the last year, because of an increase in construction and a need to house construction workers, real estate brokers say.

"It's gone up quite a bit," said Scott Sherley, president and principal broker of Max Sherley & Associates. Sherley said in the central Maui area, a two-bedroom house rents for $800 to $1,000, compared to $600 to $700 about a year ago.

The main homeless facility in Wailuku, housing nearly 1,000 people, is full, with eight families on the waiting list. Many of the families at the park have already been in county homeless facilities at Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Center in Wailuku and been asked to leave, said its executive director Charles Ridings. Ridings said once asked to leave, a family usually needs to wait six months before being eligible for re-entry.

Kaikala said her family of six, including four children ages 10 months to 13 years old, have been looking for a home since October, when they left a house the bank repossessed.

She said although she works as a part-time receptionist and her husband is a full-time mechanic, they've had difficulty finding a house with affordable rental price and landlords don't like to rent to large families. Kaikala said she and her husband earn too much money to qualify for most government subsidized housing programs.

"I hope and pray something will open up," she said. "It'll happen when it happens. We just have to stay positive."

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