Waipahu cultural center troubled by overnight homeless campers

City stepping in to help Waipahu cultural center overrun with homeless campers
Published: May. 4, 2017 at 1:29 AM HST|Updated: May. 4, 2017 at 8:52 AM HST
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WAIPAHU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the shadow of the old Waipahu sugar mill smokestack  sits a replica of what plantation life used to look like. Hawaii's Plantation Village is the only cultural center of its kind on Oahu that showcases the history of that era.

"We have valuable artifacts in each of the houses. We have photographs," said executive director, Deanna Espinas

But over the past couple years, the ambiance has changed.  Hidden in the brush are dozens of homeless campers.

When the tours stop -- squatters move in.

"I don't really feel safe by myself. When I come in early in the morning sometimes, opening for a special program they'll be sleeping on our administrative office porch with their dogs and I have to ask them to leave," said Espinas.

Over the past six months the center's executive director has reported more than 50 complaints to the city which include loose dogs, encounters with aggressive campers and break-ins.

Photos show trash left behind in one of the houses. There's also evidence of drug use, and folks using the grounds as a toilet.

Each morning custodians have to clean it all up before bus loads of school children and visitors arrive.

"It's really a challenge for us to do this," said Espinas.

What's happening caught the attention of Councilman Ron Menor.  He's arranged for the city to cut back the brush surrounding the 50-acre property.  The councilman is also wants to connect the people living here with a new place to stay.

"We're going to have outreach workers out here offering services and letting homeless individuals and families know about appropriate shelter and housing options that are available to them," said Menor.

Enforcement of the property is set to begin the middle of the month.

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