E komo mai: A Waianae homeless camp with strict rules welcomes visitors for a tour

(Image: HNN)
(Image: HNN)

WAIANAE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Leaders of Oahu's largest homeless camp in Waianae offered guided tours on Sunday to give the community a chance to see how they live.

The open house of sorts is the latest move from Puuhonua o Waianae leaders to gain support as concerns grow that the state may soon evict them.

"We're not like any other encampment," said village leader Twinkle Borge. "We have a unique encampment here."

Borge says there are just under 200 residents and about 150 dogs living on the property near the Waianae Small Boat harbor.

Borge has called it home since 2006 and says things have changed for the better.

Residents have built a community garden, a game room and playground for the keiki and a donation tent.

"It's not only for the encampment area," Borge said. "We also have the community come in to check out (the donation tent) and see what they need."

There are even a set of rules all residents must follow.

"No loud noises after 8 p.m. especially when it's a school night for our kids," said Borge. "No stealing, I'm not going to deal with that. Stealing and sex offenders are the reasons why I will kick you out."

More than 550 visitors went on the tour.

Borge hopes they leave with a better understanding of the village's mission: to provide a safe space, governed by strictly-enforced rules to homeless families in Hawaii.

"We are just a bunch of people trying to get by," said Theresa Sale, a 19-year-old Puuhonua o Waianae resident. "It would mean a lot if they would help support Auntie Twinkle and what she's doing to keep us here."

"We drive by here everyday and we often wonder what kind of lifestyle would be inside the camp," said Don Heinz who visited the camp for the first time on Sunday. "I personally think the State should do something for these people."

The state Dept. of Land and Natural Resources wants to create a Marine Educational Science Center on the property.

Borge hopes the state will work with them in planning a smooth and peaceful transition and doesn't want to see a community that's worked hard to help others heal and thrive to be lost in a sweep.

"I hope the government will bring us to the table," said Borge.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.