WAIMEA — Under the shade of the pavilion at Lucy Wright Beach Park in Waimea, a Bible study discusses Hebrews 12:5-29.
The verse is best explained by Lili Neubig, who lives across the street from the park.
“This one was so very powerful because it’s talking about things that’s happening right now,” Neubig said. “They have to leave here. They have no place to go. They just have to let it go.”
Sitting with aunty Pua Niau, they wait for it to hit noon Friday, when park rangers said they will begin citing individuals for staying past the park’s designated closing time as a Shelter in Place facility.
In March 2020, the county designated five beach parks as Shelter in Place zones for the houseless community. At these encampments, people could apply for a monthly permit to set up a small campsite with amenities provided by the county, like access to a bathroom, running water and social services.
In February of this year, the county announced the disassembly of this program, used by over 200 individuals across the island. At the end of March, the first two of the sites, ‘Anini and Anahola beach parks, closed, displacing 80.
Lucy Wright closed at the end of April, forcing over 30 individuals out. Next to close with be Lydgate Park at the end of May, then Salt Pond Beach Park at the end of June.
Niau has been at the park for over a year. Without anywhere to go, she has made peace that she’ll be cited.
“I’ve been accepting this long before now. I’ve been through this process since I went homeless,” Niau said. “Staying in God’s word, He stays with you.”
This has been a safe place to live, Niau said, and people have mostly stayed to themselves, not getting into trouble or getting sick, which was the point of opening these beach parks: to limit the movement of the vulnerable houseless population.
“None of us got sick. We all stay healthy and safe within the dwelling of this park,” Niau said. “If we do travel outside of the park, it’s either the grocery store, laundromat or fishing. That’s about it. So far, it’s been good enough for all of us.”
Discontinuing the program without affordable-housing options puts people like Niau in a tough situation.
The county had hoped to set up a transitional, tiny-house community for the houseless, but the project was deemed unfeasible in the timeframe allowed for the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds.
“There’s many resources, but we’re limited to a lot since COVID,” said Wesley Hauanio, another Lucy Wright Park resident. “A lot of things got held back. Everything got shut down.”
Despite holding federal housing program rental vouchers, Hauanio and his wife have not been able to find a place to live. Now, they live in their car that was parked at Lucy Wright Park for over a year.
“I’ve seen this park go from nice, beautiful,” Hauanio said. “Now nobody like come here. It’s an eyesore. It’s the first thing you see coming down the bridge, and the last thing going out.”
Hauanio, as he grabbed his spare tires, said he wasn’t sure exactly sure where he’d go next. He doesn’t like to be a burden to friends or family, so he eyed Hanapepe.
“It’s either here or going to Salt Pond,” Hauanio said. “We’re houseless. If we go on the beach, (the state) will step in.”
Hauanio said a lot of the park’s residents faced drug addiction, and need to have those issues addressed.
“There are a lot of resources, but the footwork is one we got to do ourselves,” Hauanio said “Not a lot of them can do it.”
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.
Source: The Garden Island