Growing homeless encampment near airport viaduct 'scary,' haven for crime

A glimpse into life under the Nimitz viaduct

KALIHI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thousands of drivers pass by it everyday, but few see it up close: The homeless encampment in and around the H-1 Freeway Airport Viaduct is one of the largest on Oahu and its numbers continue to grow.

Service providers estimate some 300 people call the area home, living in tents and makeshift shelters, under the elevated highway or tucked into thick brush.

Delie Smith spent three years living in the area, until the 60-year-old was finally able to secure a spot at a homeless shelter in Sand Island.

She says the viaduct encampment is downright scary -- a haven for drugs and crime.

"A lot of fights. Mostly domestics. About five or six of my friends passed under there. That got me really scared," she said.

Smith has lived in the shelter for two weeks, and she's still trying to come to terms with the time she spent living near the airport viaduct.

"People live separately under there. They block it off and make their own place," she said. "We had a bed. We made a bathroom. The only thing we didn't have was water and electricity."

Delie says her boyfriend got her into the tight-knit community, and was always looking after her.

"A lot of people there know each other. But if you went under there and you was by yourself it would be kind of dangerous," Smith said.

Drugs and prostitution were everywhere, she said. But that's not all people do to make money.

"Some of the things we did was sell food. Other people they had other things like shampoos and stuff they would sell," she said. "They have a place where you can gamble. My daughters are gamblers so they hung out there."

Delie says by far the worst part was living without running water.

"Everybody they just dump their rubbish right there. It was filthy. If you get just a small cut it's not going to heal," she said.

Her boyfriend ended up with a staph infection that nearly cost him his leg.

Smith says she wanted off the street for a long time. After months of interactions with outreach workers, her boyfriend finally agreed to stay at Hale Mauliola because they would't be split up.

"I'm kind of glad that I'm here and that we're working on getting our own place. I just kind of feel bad about my daughters," Smith said. They remain on the streets.

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