Group that helped seniors get off the beach and into homes praised for unconventional tactics

Some Native Hawaiians who made a bold move to get homeless people off the beach are being praised for their unconventional tactics.
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 5:30 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 3, 2023 at 5:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some Native Hawaiians who made a bold move to get homeless people off the beach are being praised for their unconventional tactics.

Earlier this week, the group occupied a Maili housing complex.

For four kupuna and two others who were living on the beach for years, Friday was their third day in their new home at the Ulu Ke Kukui affordable housing complex

Lovey Aona, 60, is one of them. She has an open wound on her leg and is appreciating the stability.

“It’s OK for me. It’s nice and small,” she said.

On Tuesday, a group called Waianae Moku Kupuna Council decided to move a group of homeless Native Hawaiians from Lualualei Beach Park or “Sewers” into unlocked empty units at the Ulu Ke Kukui housing project.

The move onto the Hawaiian Homelands property was made without permission.

After years on the beach, these Native Hawaiians occupied a housing complex. Some got to stay

After tense discussions, some got to stay.

“It was emotional and it’s still emotional,” said Lena Suzuki, Waianae Moku Kupuna Council.

“We still cannot believe we got six kupunas in housing. We are just so thankful,”

The Hawaiian Community Development Corporation is redeveloping the affordable housing complex for Native Hawaiian beneficiaries and President and CEO Kali Watson made the decision to allow some of the group to stay.

“It was a peaceful and appropriate protest. What this group did was unconventional, but I give them credit for challenging us to help them, which we did to the extent that we could,” he told Hawaii News Now.

He said using this approach does push back others on the waitlist.

But he said in this situation, it seemed warranted because they were living on the beach and had some serious health conditions. “I think the people on the waitlist would understand and wouldn’t object,” he said.

Tuesday’s brief occupation led to an emergency meeting with state leaders.

“Talking with Governor Green, I think he’s comfortable with committing at least one or two kauhale to West Oahu and that makes me excited,” said State Rep. Darius Kila, (D-Honokai Hale, Nanakuli, Maili).

James Koshiba, the governor’s homelessness coordinator, said half of unsheltered people in Hawaii are Native Hawaiian. “What I saw in their action was people who care about their community who were acting with urgency and aloha,” he said.

Hawaiian Homes Commission Chairman Designee Ikaika Anderson agreed.

“I look forward to working with our community associations on additional endeavors like this and being able to provide for our kupuna,” he added.

Since Tuesday, community volunteers have been donating items to the kupuna in Maili and vow to help others still living on the beach.

It’s unclear how long this group can stay at the Maili complex, but group leaders say they’ve been told possibly until the end of the year.

As for discussions about a possible kauhale, or tiny homes village, state leaders say this Waianae group is exactly what the community needs to move a project like that forward.