Tears, relief from residents of a Waianae homeless camp after sweep is put on hold

WAIANAE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state's planned sweep of Oahu's largest homeless camp is on hold after its leaders met with the governor for more than two hours Tuesday.

Residents of the "model" homeless camp are relieved the sweep was called off.

Village leader Twinkle Borge told Hawaii News Now that the afternoon meeting was at a private home.

"Came out of his mouth, that there will be no sweep...so for me, I'm happy," Borge said of Governor David Ige.

The state previously announced it hoped to clear the camp by early June. Tuesday night, camp leaders announced on social media that the sweep was put on hold indefinitely by orders of the governor.

"I came home, I got to share with the village, crying, in tears, because we've been fighting so hard. Just to prove to them we are not like any other encampment," said Borge.

Borge says a follow-up meeting will be held in the coming weeks to discuss next steps.

"I met with Twinkle and other community members to reassure them that there were no plans to take enforcement action on this site and to let them know I am committed to working with them on a transition plan to find suitable housing at other locations. We will also be working with them to protect the natural and cultural resources on this site," said Governor David Ige in a statement to Hawaii News Now on Wednesday.

The camp, called Puuhonua o Waianae, has been called a model nationally for its strong sense of community and tough rules for occupants. Just over 200 residents live on the property near the Waianae small boat harbor.

And those who live there say while they understand they're on state land, they're hoping for a resolution that will make everyone happy.

There was some question, though, whether that would happen.

Earlier this month, state homeless coordinator Scott Morishige told the Waianae Neighborhood Board that the goal is to "transition people to other options" by early June. He said the Land Board would take up the issue at its meeting March 23.

"It's really been a question on how to balance the Department of Land and Natural Resources responsibility for managing state land and the cultural and environmental resources with the needs of the people who are residing there," Morishige said.

The state wants to create a marine educational science center on the property.

At the same neighborhood board meeting, representatives from the camp said they were disappointed in the state's decision.

They called on any timeline for a sweep to be put on hold until a plan for moving residents is agreed on.

Supporters of the camp have acknowledged it's on public land illegally, but have called on the state to ensure its residents are transitioned to another property or other housing options.

And Borge has said the encampment can't be treated like those in the urban core.

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

As part of the homeless camp's push to garner support, its residents held an open house last month and offered guided tours. More than 500 people turned out for the event.

This story will be updated.

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