Donations in hand, Waianae homeless camp leaders to purchase 20 acres outright

A Waianae homeless camp is set to purchase 20 acres, and doesn't even need a loan

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - It had been called a pipe dream.

But on Friday, leaders of Hawaii’s largest homeless camp announced they have the money to buy 20 acres of land on Oahu’s Leeward Coast.

Pu’uhonua o Waianae is expected to close on the property next Friday. A hefty donation means they’ll be able to own the land outright.

Among the 200 or so people planning to move to the property: Connie Hokoana, who has called a makeshift shelter tucked behind Waianae Boat Harbor home for more than a decade.

The group will be moving into a communal village, made up of tiny homes, that’s being built on a plot off Waianae Valley Road.

“For me it’s overwhelming because I didn’t think anything like this would happen," Hokoana said.

It’s a dream made possible through the generosity of others.

On Friday, the head of Nareit Hawaii Community Giving Initiative presented Puuhonua o Waianae with a $150,000 check, giving the group the remainder of the money it needs to pay for the property.

It’s the non-profit’s second $150,000 donation towards the project.

“It’s an example of what we can accomplish when we all work together to do what’s right for everyone in our community,” said Gladys Marrone, Nareit Hawaii’s executive director.

Twinkle Borge, the leader of Puuhonua o Waianae, said she never thought this day would come.

"But I’m glad people are actually trusting, believing in the vision and helping.”

“It’s been a journey, you know?” added James Pakele, president of Dynamic Community Solutions.

“A lot of roller coasters and this is not the end. Basically we just got from the stable to the starting line.”

But not everyone’s warmed to the idea.

The camp’s relocation has raised concern from some of its new neighbors.

“I know there’s some controversy around the property,” said state Rep. Cedric Gates.

“But at the same time I challenge the community to come up with some better solutions. Because right now this is the best, greatest thing I can think of.”

Camp leaders say a main priority is getting the land set up for farming. In the meantime, the group needs to continue to raise money so they can afford to start building tiny homes.

“It was never the plan to bring everybody at once. It’s going to be a slow transition,” said Pakele. “Right now we’re just focusing on getting the bathrooms and showers and kitchens in.”

He says the hope is people can begin moving later this year.

It’s a new reality for Hokoana ― and one she’s ready to embrace.

“It’s amazing it’s happening,” she said.

If you would like to help with the build out of the village you can donate click here.

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.