The North Shore: Where the people live in beach front mansions, and beach front cars

Jade Eckardt

HALEIWA—Homeless or houseless, both labels paint a similar picture: men, women, and children sleeping on public land because they have no where else to go. Amidst the tourism, beach front mansions, and surf-mania, Haleiwa and the North Shore have a large houseless population, something that is causing community concern and debate.

Until recently, the Haleiwa Boat Harbor bordering Alii Beach Park had been home to the houseless for years. After recently being removed from the harbor by the Honolulu Police Department, the houseless folks figured out a loophole—the 24-hour unrestricted parking along the makai side of Haleiwa Road. The stretch of road is their new home, and is located on the west side of Alii Beach Park down towards the Jodo Mission. Each night, the road is lined with bumper-to-bumper parked vehicles that belong to the people who are making the best of living in an unconventional way.

Many houseless people spend time during the day in the roughly paved area between the harbor and the beach park. In an effort to deter them from the harbor and beach park parking area, signs have been put up by the City stating that there is no parking from 10:00 p.m to 6:00 a.m. The solution is paltry. The houseless leave at night and move down the street to the Haleiwa Road parking area. Legally, anyone can park in the designated area for a 24-hour period.

Because the law states that it is illegal for a person to sleep in their vehicle in public, many people who live out of their car claim that they don’t actually sleep in it. At a recent North Shore Neighborhood Board meeting, a houseless man who resides in Haleiwa and had the law in mind asked a Wahiawa-based policeman, “Would it be alright if I sat in my car awake all night long? Would I still get arrested?” With a humored look on his face, the officer considered the question and replied that he guessed it would be alright.

“The island is my home and this public land should serve the people.”

Several houseless people who attended the meeting spoke to the crowd. One man said into the microphone that he works, supports his grandfather and another family member, but can’t find an affordable home that would fit all of them. He then addressed the crowed, asking if anyone could refer an affordable place for him and his family. After the houseless people in attendance spoke, the board did not discuss any housing-related issues or possible solutions to the problem, but did address several issues affecting people who do live in houses, such as noisy water main work and, ironically, noisy houseless people.

Last week an Alii Beach lifeguard who wished to remain anonymous said, “A week ago they [park employees] found two homeless people having sex in the men’s bathroom. They break into bathrooms at night because they are locked and take the toilet paper.”

He expressed frustration with the situation, adding, “A couple of days ago two young girls were run out of the women’s bathroom because homeless were smoking marijuana in the men’s, and the smoke went directly into the women’s. They came running out saying, ‘Uncle, it stinks in there.’ It’s getting totally out of control. It’s just crazy.”

According to Hawaii H.O.M.E. Project, 12,000 to 15,000 people are houseless at some point of the year statewide; at least 6,000 are houseless at any given day; children make up 23.5 to 39 percent of houseless people; 17 to 42 percent of houseless people are employed full-time; and 37 percent are of Native Hawaiian ethnicity.

Houseless people share the same routines as people who have houses in Hawaii. They wake up in the morning to go off to work, catch the bus, drive, take their children to school, and pick them up. Often, they work for wages that are just too low to pay rent. And at night they go to a public place to sleep.

One person who sleeps at Haleiwa Beach Park said, “I don’t have a house but I’m not homeless. I’m Hawaiian. The island is my home and this public land should serve the people. Everyone here has a home, it’s Hawaii.”

Regardless of why they are there, whether it be by choice or circumstance, houseless people living in public areas is an island-wide issue and community members hope to see it addressed. What North Shore residents are asking is, what will be done about it?

So far, no clear solution has been proposed to help Haleiwa’s houseless find homes, but the North Shore community is helping in other ways. North Shore News, 66-437 Kamehameha Hwy. Suite # 210, open Tuesdays and Thursdays above Haleiwa Post Office, is taking donations of clothing and supplies. North Shore News distributes all donations down to Alii Beach Park on Sundays. Sarah Miles takes donations of food, time, and money at the Haleiwa Farmers Market to contribute to the huge pot of soup she makes to share with the hungry at Haleiwa Beach Park.

The number of affordable housing is limited in Hawaii, and the nearest to Haleiwa are in Wahiawa. Hawaii Public Housing Authority’s Section 8 program is so overloaded with applicants, that they only periodically take applications. On Oahu, land available for legal or illegal camping or for people to sleep in a car is limited. As residents and county employees continue to try to find a resolution, houseless people will continue to adapt in order to survive.