The challenges of homelessness differ on each island---for those who experience it, those who try to help them, and those who enforce the law. On Hawai‘i Island, Mayor Harry Kim has made it a priority to clean up a West Hawai‘i Park where many have been living illegally. Right now around 60 people live there, and authorities are making some changes. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken has the story.
Charmaine Kamaka heads Hawai'i County’s Parks and Recreation Department. She explains what’s going to be happening next week at the plan for Old Kona Airport.
“We’re doing a cleanup of the Old Kona Airport. We’re starting from the gate right past the events pavilion, the runway side. We’re moving north.”
Although the cleanup starts next Wednesday, August 9th, Kamaka wants any homeless people living in the park out by today. She has hired security guards who are on duty from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. And there’s more. We spoke with John and Lokahi, who came down from Kohala to find work and are living at Old Airport.
“Kona Police Officers, they told us they gonna shut down the park, he was nice when he approached us, and told us they’re gonna do random popups and give everybody tickets that is living here. We have to pay a hundred and some what dollar fine and we gotta attend court. I don’t have a vehicle.”
“It wasn’t just the two of us, it was about 30 people, including children.”
HOPE Services and County Housing are working to find housing, but right now, there are few options. John and Lokahi did talk with a HOPE Services worker.
“He asked us questions, if we have a job, if we’re financially stable, if we have medical, any housing or any plans we have after they close down the park. He’s gonna try his best to get us into some kind of facility. “
Kamaka says she expects more than 500 people to help with the cleanup.
“My goal is to clean up the trash, remove the naupaka, the grass, places where people tend to make house. We’re going to make it inviting for all the residents of the Big Island.”
We will hear more about the Old Airport Park cleanup project from County Housing, HOPE Services, and Hawai'i County Police in a future report.