Head of model homeless village: State told me to turn people away

Head of model homeless village: State told me to turn people away
( Image: Hawaii News Now )
( Image: Hawaii News Now )

WAIANAE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Twinkle Borge oversees the homeless camp at Waianae Small Boat Harbor known as Puuhonua o Waianae.

Government leaders call it a model homeless village. So Borge was stunned at what she says the state's homeless coordinator told her to do.

"I was told not to take in any more people," she said. "The ones that we do help get into the shelters or into homes, do not fill the space. So what do you do?"

Last week, Borge refused entrance to 75 people based on what she says she heard from coordinator Scott Morishige.

But Morishige insists he did not tell her to turn people away but to reduce the number of residents.

"If you have 300 people living there, where you know you have environmental resources right below that can be impacted by the population density, that really is something that we want together to help better manage," he said.

Morishige said there's no immediate plans to remove the camp, but the state's worried the campsite is harming underground ponds where Hawaiian Red Shrimp live.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources controls the property and has for now allowed the village to reside their.

"DLNR is currently having both internal and external discussions regarding this property, but no decisions have been made at this time," said Dan Dennison, DLNR's senior communications manager.

Waianae Rep. Cedric Gates said there is talk of having the Department of Education take over the land for a community pool. expansion of Waianae High School, and a cultural park.

"My office is continuing to work to develop plans to better utilize that parcel of land for the community's benefit," he said.

But Leeward coast Rep. Andria Tupola said the state should back off until a relocation site for the village can be found. She helped Borge start a non-profit.

"Now they're looking for property to purchase so that they can move and have a sustainable lifestyle," she said.

After her talk with Morishige, Borge said she helped 120 people move from the camp into shelters and housing. She believes the camp can function well with more than the 180 people who are still there.

"To me we're out of sight out of mind," she said. "I want to be able to help knowing it's okay."

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