GARY T. KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Citing potential health hazards, Maui County cleared the Kahului breakwater area where some 40 homeless residents have been living in makeshift dwellings. This shows what the area looked like on March 22.
Evicted Maui homeless had jobs
High rents are cited by many who camped at Kahului Harbor
KAHULUI » In a makeshift camping area on a rocky finger of land extending into Kahului Harbor, workers and bulldozer operators loaded trucks and cleared what remains of a site once occupied by some 40 homeless families -- some of whom had jobs or were looking for work.
Roland Kaimi, a former bus driver who has lived in a tent at Kahului Harbor for nearly two years, said about 60 percent of the people who lived at the breakwater had regular jobs but did not earn enough to obtain regular housing.
"What some people call low-income housing on Maui isn't low-income," he said Thursday. "It's middle-class."
As Maui housing values have risen, rents have jumped, contributing to the homeless problem on the Valley Isle, according to observers.
County officials said the value of a residential home increased by 25 percent, on average, last year.
Charles Ridings, executive director of Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Center, said many homeless have jobs but do not make enough money to find housing.
"It's hard to get a two- bedroom for $1,300 a month," Ridings said.
Ridings said the number of people on the waiting list for housing at the shelter has risen to nearly its highest level in the past year and a half: about 107 people currently, including 27 families with 49 children.
He said part of the reason for the high numbers is also that many who have lost their welfare eligibility require a longer period in the shelter to train for a job.
Kaimi, who makes some money recycling aluminum, said he has been unable to find steady work and an affordable house.
He said many of the people who lived at the breakwater have moved to beach areas in Waihee, Paia and Spreckelsville.
Jason Pua, 36, one of several people still living on a portion of the site, said he does not know where he is going next.
"It's hard to make a decision right away," said Pua, carrying a trash bag to a Dumpsite truck.
Pua said he moved to the Kahului Harbor site about six months ago after being forced to leave a beach area near Kahului Airport.
"Now we're getting kicked out of here," he said.
Pua said he has been looking for a job for the past two years, ever since he lost his job at a tent rental business.
County spokeswoman Ellen Pelissero said the county decided to begin clearing the homeless settlement out of the breakwater this week after a state health inspection found potential problems, such as the spread of staphylococcus virus.
Pelissero said the homeless people were taking relatively good care of the area for a long time, but with the recent influx of more people, sanitation began to deteriorate.
She said the plan is to halt any recreational use of the area for about four weeks.
Asked if the county intended to allow the homeless back onto the breakwater area, Pelissero said a decision would be made later.
Pelissero said county workers have been visiting the breakwater area and trying to assist people who want to find housing.
County Parks Deputy Director John Buck said he had also received complaints from residents who no longer feel safe using the area for recreation.
About a mile south, the county and a canoe club cleared a shoreline area of homeless about a month and a half ago after finding drug paraphernalia, such as needles and syringes, on the beach.
Some homeless people concede there are drug users among them, and some who do not want to stop. But they say it is no different from many other communities.
"People think everybody's on drugs over here. They put them down. That's not fair. ... Most of the people here are working," said a woman who calls herself Piilani.