Discovering Hawaii's Hidden Homeless

Toni Kia
Toni Kia
Amy Katahira
Amy Katahira

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- The homeless in Hawaii are very visible at beaches, parks and downtown streets.

But there are also many who have disappeared away from view.

Some might be surprised to learn there are people living under busy highways in Honolulu.  Turning their individual campsites into a community.

In this talk story segment we see what life is like for Hawaii's hidden homeless.

About 50 people are living under the Nimitz Highway between Middle Street and Kakoi Street.  Criminal activity had been reported in the area, but this small community wants the public to know, they are not a part of it.

"We don't have no drug dealing, we don't like no prostitution, no gambling, we don't like that.  That's what draws heat," resident Toni Kia.

But there have been concerns raised about this campsite, over sanitary conditions and the dumping of waste and trash.

"That's not our stuff.  That's other peoples that come down here and do their recycles and just leave their opala there and make us look bad."

They live the simple life.

"Sometimes we go crabbing, try and make a living, try and make some money to get some food," one resident said.

And they also watch out for one another. Some who use the trail next to the highway believe these homeless are harmless.

"They're nice people, they don't hurt me or anything, you know?  If i walk my dog down here," Amy Katahira said.

Kia was one the first to make this area home. She knows there are homeless shelters but enjoys her freedom.

"I don't want to be sleeping with a lot of people, you know, in one big room like 20 of them or something like that.  I'd rather have my own space and my own privacy."

By law, they're not allowed to live here, but living under the Nimitz Highway isn't easy

"It's very hard to live like this, especially when you have to make your own light, your own electricity and stuff like that everyday.  That's hard"

Their situation might be dire, but it is home.

"We call this our neighborhood."

One small community getting by with little else than the resources around them and each other.