190 Kea‘au houseless residents are petitioning Governor Abercrombie to grant an extension on tonight’s planned ‘sweep.’
The community, comprising approximately 200 adults plus children, was notified on March 6 that they would be evicted tonight at 10 pm.
In addition to the petition, 30 community members sent handwritten letters to Abercrombie.
One letter, from a 17-year old Waianae high school student, discusses his pride at being admitted to a California college, mixed with fear for his family’s predicament.
“I don’t want to be attending my college and have to be worried about everyone,” he wrote.
Stress – over jobs, housing costs, transportation – is a constant theme in the letters.
“A lot of us don’t have any vehicles at all to help us to get moving. The beach is pretty much all everyone knows. It has been our only home we know for a long, long time. It would be so greatly appreciated if we could have more time,” Gayle Peeples wrote. According to her letter, Peeples has lived at Kea‘au for 15 years, along with her husband, daughter, son, son-in-law, and five grandchildren.
In spite of today’s deadline, residents said that they spotted bulldozers this weekend hauling personal property from the encampment.
According to a recent study by Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, Hawai‘i has the third highest houseless rate in the US, with 6,188 houseless individuals. More than half of houseless families have one or two adults working full or part-time. Over the last four years, the state has cut funding for public housing by 56.8%. (Source: “The State of Poverty in Hawaii,” Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, 2012).
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Trish Morikawa, County Housing Coordinator, responded to an inquiry from the Independent about an extension. She says that the city will not grant an extension:
“The city has been working with the service providers, and they have been going out four days a week for sixty days to help homeless people get housing and services. In fact, they went out Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week. But the date is set, and work crews are going out.”