Affordable Housing and Homeless Alliance commits to helping Haleiwa’s houseless

Jade Eckardt

HALEIWA—In an effort to help the houseless in Haleiwa, the Affordable Housing and Homeless Alliance (AHHA) has been setting up a tent every Tuesday and Thursday at Alii Beach Park, allowing those in need to approach them for support.

“We get about 40 people in the two days that we come here [each week],” said an AHHA volunteer. “We help them find affordable housing, help them get new IDs, birth certificates, and social security cards. Just help them get back on track.”

The AHHA is one of few organizations reaching out to help the large houseless population in Haleiwa.

“It’s sad. They just get harassed by the police,” said a volunteer named Willy. “One man told me this morning that in the middle of the night, last night, he got woken up with a flashlight in his eyes and got a ticket just for sleeping. He said he asked the officer, ‘What did I do?’ [The officer] said, ‘You’re sleeping here.’ They just ticket them, make them pay, ticket them again, and on and on. We’re trying to actually change it, not keep the circle going.”

At the February North Shore Neighborhood Board meeting, North Shore residents shared the view that houseless people are not a problem but an indication of a dysfunctional society. During the meeting, one houseless man explained that it is difficult for him to understand how people can help so much with aid to those in need in other countries, such as Haiti, when there are houseless people in our own backyard that often never receive help.

Houseless people who stayed at Alii Beach Park have recently moved from the Haleiwa Boat Harbor to a nightly gathering on Haleiwa Road along the west side of the beach park in order to sleep. Community members and beach park employees have expressed frustration with incidents involving the park residents including break-ins in the park bathrooms, noise at night, and marijuana smoking in public, and have expressed hope to have them removed from the area.

Other North Shore residents point out that whether the houseless are causing trouble or living in public peacefully, they need and deserve help from the community and State. An Alii Beach Park lifeguard estimated last week that 80 percent of the houseless choose to live this way, but other residents see it differently. One Haleiwa Road resident who lives in a home directly across the street from the nightly car line-up says, “Most have mental illness and are not employable. There needs to be an increase in mental illness facilities. I’m thinking sustainable farming and fishing communities for them.”

In addition to the nightly road-side community, several tents, displaying a permanent and “at home” look, have been set up along the beach on the west side of the John Kalihi Surf Center, as well as in the bushes along the rocky point to the left of the surf break. The temporary ocean front homes are still standing, but possibly not for long considering that the Honolulu City Council has recently passed a measure that would make the presence of tents and shopping carts in public parks illegal—deeming a tent as any structure with more than one wall. Mayor Mufi Hannemann has yet to sign the ban into law.

North Shore residents who live in houses in the high rent, surf-industry-soaked part of the island appear to be divided in their beliefs over what should be done to or for the houseless. While some think the houseless need to be responsible for themselves and move out of the park, others suggest they need assistance in doing so and are relieved to see the AHHA in the park each week to help them.

“It’s a relief to see someone trying to help,” said one Haleiwa resident about AHHA’s efforts. “It doesn’t matter if [the houseless] are there by choice, or because they are addicts or work and can’t afford rent. Either way they are there, which means we need a solution as a community.”

AHHA is currently working in a collaborative effort with Federal, State, County, non-profit, and private sector representatives to complete the Ten Year Plan to end homelessness in Hawaii. Established in September, 2004, The Ten Year Plan identifies Hawaii’s challenges in stopping and preventing homelessness in the islands and puts forward steps the State can take to end homelessness within 10 years from the date it was established, leaving four years to accomplish the goal.

The Plan to End Chronic Homelessness in Hawaii cites the following 6 goals as the basis of the plan:

* To improve data collection and research.
* Decrease barriers to housing.
* Increase access to appropriate, affordable, safe, and decent housing.
* Prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless.
* Provide appropriate support services.
* Create collaborative partnerships to end homelessness.

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