Tiny Lanai struggles to help its only homeless resident

Tiny Lanai struggles to help its only homeless resident
Published: Dec. 9, 2015 at 2:33 AM HST|Updated: Dec. 9, 2015 at 4:34 AM HST
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Maggie Masicampo
Maggie Masicampo
Kelli Gima
Kelli Gima

LANAI (HAWAIINEWSNOW) - On Lanai, the island's only visibly homeless man stands in stark contrast to the island's beachfront resort that's undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation.

Richard Thompson, 62, spends most of his time in Lanai City's Dole Park, where Hawaii News Now spoke to him last month.

Thompson, who also goes by Ricardo, said he was born in Louisiana and has lived in Hawaii for a couple of years.

"I sleep wherever I end up. Been doing that a long time.  I started that back 17 years old with a high school diploma and a 32-colt automatic in my boot," Thompson said.

Asked why he decided to move to Lanai to live, he said, "Cause of the fresh air.  The vog does not come over here as much.  It still gets here, but it's actually the healthiest island to live on."

Lanai's luxury oceanfront Four Seasons resort is undergoing $75 million in renovations and when it re-opens in February, the cheapest rooms will cost around $900 a night. That's more than the $700 Thompson earns in a month from social security.

Maggie Masicampo runs the Lanai Senior Center which feeds Thompson a meal every day and allows him to shower there.

"We don't have a shelter or anything anybody could go to stay for the night and get out of the cold," Masicampo said.

Masicampo said she was able to help him leave the island nine months back, but he showed up again on Lanai about six weeks ago.

"So what he wanted to do was go to Honolulu.  So we got him a ticket to Honolulu, got him cleaned up.  But now he's back, and now I don't know what to do with him," Masicampo said.

"They have all those services in Maui. I'd like to put him on a boat and get him over to the Salvation Army because they will take care of him and see that he's fed and housed," Masicampo added.

Alberta DeJetley, publisher of Lanai's monthly newspaper and a member of the chamber of commerce, said, "Our concern here is that we're not overwhelmed by homeless people, but we take care of it one by one, case by case."

Longtime Lanai residents said while Thompson is the only visibly homeless person here, many others are "houseless," with two or three generations of families routinely living crammed into old plantation homes with two or three bedrooms and one bathroom.

Kelli Gima, who chairs the Lanai Planning Commission, said, "We have homeless people here.  It doesn't look like the homeless people you see on Oahu.  They're not on the streets, they're not in tents, they're packed up in homes."

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