Discussions are under- way to move the 270-person homeless encampment next to the Waianae Small Boat Harbor to unspecified, privately owned land farther mauka, and to erect wooden “tiny homes” for its residents.
“We do have a solution,” said Twinkle Borge, leader of Pu‘uhonua o Waianae.
Borge attended Friday’s Statewide Homeless Awareness Conference for the first time to learn firsthand what government agencies and social service organizations are doing to help reduce the nation’s highest per capita rate of homelessness.
During a break in the conference, Borge declined to offer specifics about a potential move for the encampment because many of the details still need to be worked out and money needs to be raised.
But if all goes well, Borge hopes to have details locked down by mid-2019 to facilitate moving everyone off of the 19.5 acres of state land next to the boat harbor.
“We’re not leaving one person behind,” she said.
During the last legislative session’s debate over $30 million in funding for so-called ohana zones, or safe zones for the homeless, some state lawmakers cited Pu‘uohana o Waianae as a potential model.
But Gov. David Ige and Mayor Kirk Caldwell said they wanted ohana zones to provide permanent housing supported by social service agencies.
Meanwhile, state Department of Land and Natural Resources officials are concerned that Pu‘uhonua o Waianae may be harming a rare “Waianae lineage” of half-inch-long red shrimp called opae ula which live below the encampment; damaging ancient burial sites and pre- and post-contact rock walls; and contributing to a spike in vandalism and water usage.
Borge has said the people of Pu‘uhonua o Waianae have offered to pay for their water use and have asked to be taught how to properly care for the opae ula.
A website — alohalives here.org — has been created to solicit donations for the new location for Pu‘uhonua o Waianae and to explain the encampment’s history and philosophy.
Borge wants the new location to include fresh water, sewage and trash pickup, which would eliminate some of the current complaints about Pu‘uhonua o Waianae.
James Pakele, who does not live in Pu‘uhonua o Waianae, but has been helping its residents, said two donors have pledged to match up to $500,000 in donations. And leaders are working with a builder to create tiny homes that could include lofts.
Borge said she continues to welcome advice from Hawaiian sovereignty leader Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, who runs the nonprofit organization Aloha First and is helping Borge navigate Pu‘uhonua o Waianae’s move.
For 15 months, between 1993 and 1994, Kanahele led an occupation of Makapuu Beach Park that included 300 people, mostly Native Hawaiians.
As the occupation generated international attention and tensions rose, in 1994 Kanahele signed a 55-year lease on undeveloped, state-owned mauka lands for $3,000 per year, or $250 per month.
Kanahele named the site Pu‘uhonua o Waimanalo.
“Pu‘uohonua” means “refuge,” and Kanahele previously told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the names Pu‘uhonua o Waiamanalo and Pu‘uhonua o Waianae are no coincidence because he has been helping Borge and the encampment’s other leaders on Native Hawaiian rights and issues.