Gov. David Ige on Friday had his second sit-down this month with the leader of one of Oahu’s largest homeless encampments following the governor’s March 13 pledge not to sweep Pu‘uhonua o Waianae, located next to the Waianae Small Boat Harbor.
Friday’s meeting is certain to raise expectations about what, if anything, Ige plans to do about Pu‘uhonua o Waianae as state officials and Twinkle Borge, leader of the encampment, continue to tour state-owned sites along the Leeward Coast that might serve as a new home for the people of Pu‘uhonua o Waianae. At last count, Pu‘uhonua o Waianae organizers said, there were 169 people and 148 dogs in 133 campsites on the property.
Just like their March 13 meeting, Ige and Borge met at the Nanakuli home of legendary waterman Buffalo Keaulana. But neither side responded to requests for comment Friday about what was said about the future of the encampment, which was once considered a model of what government-sanctioned homeless “ohana zones” could look like.
Ige’s communications director, Cindy McMillan, offered no details after the meeting and repeated the administration’s stance on Pu‘uhonua o Waianae: “We are continuing to talk with the members of the community there.”
Friday’s meeting follows weeks of confusion and mixed messaging about Pu‘uhonua o Waianae.
At this month’s meeting of the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board, state homeless coordinator Scott Morishige and DLNR’s Pua Aiu made cryptic references to a marine education learning center and the need to sweep the encampment by June 1, said Kellen Smith, who sits on the neighborhood board and serves as chairman of its education, health and welfare committee and also chairs the board’s agriculture and intergovernmental affairs committee.
“Scott Morishige and Pua Aiu had a quick presentation about their plan to sweep the harbor,” Smith said. “It caught us off guard. They said they were going to relocate them because they wanted to put in some kind of marine education learning center. We didn’t hear how much it would cost, what it would be, what it would do, other than some kind of collaboration with Waianae High School. They mentioned some kind of grant deadline, but we didn’t see any grant application or photos or anything.”
Board treasurer Calvin Endo said, “There was a June deadline for the people to vacate the premises of the property, but there was no real solid plan why they wanted them out.”
Then two weeks later, Smith said, Ige’s chief of staff, Mike McCartney, appeared alone before a special meeting of the neighborhood board with a different message.
“He apologized several times, to my surprise,” Smith said. “He said he wants to work with us now. He said they’re not going to sweep. It was just a lot of mixed communication. After the special meeting, all of what Scott Morishige told us was off the table. Mike McCartney said June 1 is totally off the table. I get the impression that the state is not going to be forcing them off anytime soon.”
Asked about DLNR’s plans for the state’s 19.5-acre site underneath Pu‘uhonua o Waianae, spokesman Dan Dennison wrote in an email to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that “the state is still in conversation with the community and we have no definite plans for the Waianae property at this time.”