Homeless debate hits nerves
Hundreds gather in Waianae to hear and discuss ideas to solve the spreading problem
Waianae residents with or without houses flocked on foot, bicycle and car to last night's meeting on homelessness to express their frustrations, to hear and offer solutions.
"I don't blame the people with all the high costs, but they are taking away our beaches," said Norma Atiga, a Waianae resident who wanted to hear solutions. "It's not safe.
"But where are they going to go?"
She recalled how four or five years ago, her family could enjoy the beaches.
Now, she said, "After Ala Moana Park was cleared, it's like all the homeless moved on the Leeward side."
About 900 overflowed the Waianae District Park hall where Gov. Linda Lingle said she wanted to hear what everyone had to say and promised, "There will be results from tonight's meeting."
The governor held the meeting last night to address the huge problem of homeless occupying beaches on the Waianae Coast.
One homeless man who lives on Maili Beach told the governor he's waiting to collect Social Security and lives on $250 in food stamps.
"Right now, it's hard," he said. "I can't move away from this beach 'cause I got no place else to go."
But surfer Sam Pa'e of Nanakuli told the homeless in the audience, "I understand you down and out, but some of you guys choose that way. Some of you selling drugs. Eh, that's not right."
"Maili Point where I surf you cannot surf there anymore," he said, blaming the homeless. He said, "We can't even park our cars there," saying the homeless bang their cars and put their coolers in parking stalls. "They act like they own the place."
"Help us out, governor," Pa'e said. "I love to surf, but I no like surf here. I like surf in happiness."
He suggested giving the homeless a designated place.
Victor Rapoza, owner of Waianae Ice House, said the problem has been going on for 10 years and blamed government officials for their inaction.
"Don't ask me for a solution," he said. "We elected you for the solutions."
He suggested taking another half percent tax in addition to the one for transit to take care of the homeless.
Art Frank, who has helped the homeless and the disabled for 25 years, said, "I'm afraid of what the mayor's doing."
Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced Monday he is planning a cleanup of Maili, Nanakuli and Keaau beach parks, where many homeless live. The mayor had also closed Ala Moana Park at night, displacing 200 homeless.
But Frank believes the community needs to work together to solve the problem and not blame politicians.
Kanani Bulawan, executive director of Waianae Community Outreach, said if the homeless live "too long in the wilderness, they become wild."
She offered a solution: "Set up satellites. Our community is not meant to be warehoused. Our people need safe zones," which she later described as campgrounds and not buildings.
She said many homeless "cannot sustain regular employment because a lot of their needs are not being met -- housing, clothing, food."