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Another moving day for homeless people on Maui

Notice to vacate is enforced near Shiraishi Pool in Central Maui

Michele Navarro Ishiki, homeless program coordinator with Maui County, cleans up after people were evicted Monday from an area fronting the Shiraishi Pool in Kahului. Ishiki said neighbors, pool users and senior citizens attending programs at nearby Kahului Union Church were concerned about homeless people congregating and sleeping in the area. They were given two weeks’ notice to vacate the area and were offered social service programs. The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photos

KAHULUI — Four individuals packed their belongings into shopping carts on a strip of grass fronting the Shiraishi Pool on Monday when Maui County officials and police arrived shortly after 8 a.m. to enforce a notice to vacate the area.

“We don’t know where we going,” said one man before officials arrived at the Kahului pool.

Another man said: “I got place for go.” He said he has family and a home on Molokai, but he remains on Maui to help others. He didn’t want to be identified. “Just put as ‘Rich,’ “ he said.

Rich said he has been living along Kaulawahine Street for about a week and prefers to be called “houseless” rather than homeless.

“The cost of living is too expensive,” he said of his difficulty in finding housing. Some of the people living along the sidewalk fronting the pool work, he said. He thanked people who drop off food and clothing in the area, although county officials caution against it.

Heavy equipment operator Gavin Shimizu of the county’s Department of Public Works uses his backhoe’s bucket to clean up after homeless people who were evicted Monday from an area fronting the Shiraishi Pool in Kahului.

Rich and the others carted their belongings away around 10 minutes after the eviction began. There was no resistance. Rich said he’s usually the last to leave because he picks up the rubbish others leave behind.

“It doesn’t seem right what we are doing here, (but) when you think of the entire community, we got to do what we got to do,” said county Homeless Program specialist Michele Navarro Ishiki.

She talked to the people being evicted and picked up trash.

Neighbors have been concerned about homeless people congregating and camping in the area. And others have been troubled as well, especially parents who drop off their children for swimming programs, Ishiki said. Homeless people have also gathered across the driveway to Kahului Union Church, where there are senior citizen classes during the morning. Some kupuna are afraid, Ishiki added.

Most of the around 20 homeless people who linger by the fence were gone by 8 a.m.

Maui County Department of Public Works employees put out traffic barricades Monday morning to deter people from congregating and sleeping near a fence fronting the Shiraishi Pool in Kahului.

Neighborhood resident Alicia Sardinha said homeless people stay up all hours of the night, talking and laughing loudly and fighting. Some scream obscenities and threaten to kill each other, she said.

“They pace up and down the street screaming. It’s no longer an occasional problem but an every-night problem,” she said.

Sardinha, who has lived in the area for more than 50 years, said: “I was raised at the pool. My children used it growing up, and now their children are not allowed near there without being escorted.”

Sardinha has written to Mayor Alan Arakawa for help and has called police. She received a response from David Nakama, Maui County’s homeless program coordinator, who said he hears her concerns about Kaulawahine Street.

“Homeless service outreach, who are out there continually, have been working with many of these individuals for years offering assistance to get them sheltered,” Nakama wrote in a email. “Some have accepted the help, while many still haven’t. Oddly enough, several of those people in that area actually have housing but are choosing to hang out with their friends.”

Police and county officials conduct outreach and clean areas where homeless people stay weekly and sometimes more frequently.

Sardinha told The Maui News that in the early ’90s she and her family started seeing homeless in their residential neighborhood and even put up gates across the driveway that stopped homeless people from approaching them.

The problem ramped up over the years, but the homeless people were quiet and didn’t appear to sleep in the area. But, in the last two years, it has gotten worse.

When the trees in the area were cut down, the homeless people moved to Salvation Army’s banyan tree.

Then, when that tree was cut down, they congregated by the fence fronting the pool, Sardinha said.

One man who was leaving the area Monday morning said he has been living there for five years.

He wanted to be identified only as “Dudoit,” and said he is originally from Waihee.

He pointed to places where homeless people would lay their heads, such as the old swap meet property across from the Kahului McDonald’s. People used to stay near the church fence, but they moved when they realized that church sprinklers would go on at midnight.

Dudoit was familiar with Arakawa’s proposal to have services and possibly housing at the Old Maui High School in Hamakuapoko.

But “that’s a challenge,” Dudoit said, noting that other needed services are in Central Maui.

He said he has signed up for help with the Family Life Center and is awaiting a call.

Ishiki said that any notice to vacate comes with offers of outreach services by the Family Life Center and community police officers, prior to eviction.

She said she knows that at times people “just need a hand up.” Ishiki herself once was homeless; now, she’s a counselor.

For various reasons, some homeless people choose not to accept help from others, including their families, Ishiki said, noting the timing must be right for people to accept services.

On Monday, people moved their carts across Kamehameha Avenue and congregated near the Kahului Shopping Center.

Ishiki said she recognizes that people move from one site to the next. But she said the notice to vacate is a way to get homeless people to accept outreach services, a strategy that has seen some success.

The last time there was a notice to vacate near the pool was Dec. 27.

On Monday, the county’s Public Works Department put up portable road barriers along the fence to deter camping.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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