Central Oahu feeling the impact of homeless population boom
WAHIAWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Safety concerns related to Oahu's growing homeless problem are growing. No longer are Honolulu city neighborhoods the only ones at risk, so are communities across the island. In Wahiawa, tent cities full of homeless families are popping up in and around town.
Bishop Michael A. Henderson has been working with Wahiawa's homeless for almost 20 years. Bishop Henderson used to bring food and clothes to the homeless, when he was welcome.
"You can see they have it fenced in and have a lock on it," said Henderson about a homeless hangout under the Kamehameha Highway bridge leading into town.
It turns out the homeless have become wary of visitors and of each other. Brian Booth lives just a few feet away from the Kamehameha Highway bridge. After 14 years living in the bush, Booth's had enough.
"I still like being out here," said Bush. "But I keep losing everything. They steal everything. That's the part that's getting me."
Booth's also afraid for his life. "They like ghosts man. You don't even see 'em coming," said Booth.
Safety is why Bishop Henderson serves most homeless now out of his church's food bank these days. The demand for his goods is increasing at an alarming rate.
"Well I've seen the population grow," said Henderson "I would say it has increased everywhere. "(It's) probably triple by now."
Wahiawa town is not the only place where the homeless population is growing. Miles and miles of new trails are being worn in the fields around the town all the time, connecting encampment to encampment. And with each new homeless settlement comes a new set of challenges.
Bishop Henderson says it's not safe to approach camps uninvited. He says it's important to note that not all homeless people are drug addicts or criminals. In fact Henderson says homeless families down on their luck are among the greatest number of new faces he's seeing on Wahiawa's streets.