Nanakuli residents at wits’ end over volatile homeless camp on federal property

Nanakuli residents at wits’ end over volatile homeless camp on federal property

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Illegal campers in Nanakuli have once again taken over a piece of land owned by the federal government.

Earlier this year, the property was consumed by a brush fire that nearly took out a several homes.

But despite years of complaints, neighbors say the federal government continues to ignore the problems on their property.

The encampment in Nanakuli has been a problem for years. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
The encampment in Nanakuli has been a problem for years. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

Three months ago, fast-moving flames charred 500 acres behind the Nanakuli Sack-and-Save. It was the latest in a string of wildfires to spark in the brush, much of which is packed with illegal campsites.

Now, a new shantytown has emerged.

It’s on the same 12-acre parcel neighbors say the federal government refuses to take responsibility for ― despite multiple calls for action over the past two years.

“The USDA property borders our property,” said Paula Murray, president of the Puu Haleakala Community Association. “Camps are spread throughout that property going up towards the mountain.”

Murray says the people living on the USDA land often use their property as a dumping ground.

“Not only do they leave trash on our property,” she said.

“They push it into the canal which is our responsibility. So the state will get after us to clean that canal and fine us if we don’t keep it clean.”

That’s only part of the problem.

Neighbors are dealing with everything from theft to abandoned cars showing up outside their homes. Maintenance workers say it’s not uncommon to walk-in on lewd activity at the community’s rec center.

Gerald Gasper told HNN: “They have sex in the bathroom! I can hear them. Tell them to hurry up!”

But by far what has residents most concerned are the reoccurring brush fires.

A recent blaze burned all the way to the fence line, forcing one family to move after their home was damaged by smoke.

“Not long after that we had a homeless person who started a fire in the backyard of one of our units, which completely damaged the unit as well as put the neighboring units in danger,” said Murray.

In March, a townhome went up in flames after Murray says a homeless woman living in the tenant's backyard accidentally started a fire that spread to the unit.
In March, a townhome went up in flames after Murray says a homeless woman living in the tenant's backyard accidentally started a fire that spread to the unit.

HNN got in touch with the USDA’s state director to ask what the agency is doing about the trespassers. The agency said it had no comment.

“We’ve contacted them (the USDA) several times,” said Murray.

“They said they’re working on selling the property. But in the meantime the situation has gotten worse and they’re not doing anything about it. I think they should take some responsibility for the problem that they’re allowing to happen on their property.”

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