No place to go

  • Ryan Collins / The Garden Island

    Russell Baxter, center, waits in line with two friends outside the Kauai Economic Opportunity shelter in Lihue Thursday. The shelter is currently filled to capacity and has 19 beds for homeless individuals.

  • Ryan Collins / The Garden Island

    Centa Ragasa offers a man a hamburger Thursday at the Pua Loke Arboretum Thursday. Ragasa said she is doing it because this holy week.

  • Ryan Collins / The Garden Island

    Guendolyn Kalinski decorates with yard art at the Pua Loke Arboretum, which has become an encampment for individuals for over the past year, according to the KEO, which is located across the street.

  • Ryan Collins / The Garden Island

    Guendolyn Kalinski decorates a tree with yard art at the Pua Loke Arboretum in Lihue Thursday. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources posted notices that the area will be closed until further notice on April 24 and anyone who remains there will be cited.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Centa Ragasa offers burgers and bottled water to houseless people at the Pua Loke Arboretum in Lihue Thursday morning.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    A sign informs people occupying the Pua Loke Arboretum of the deadline to vacate the premises.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    A sign notifies occupants of the Pua Loke Arboretum in Lihue of the intent to clear the premises starting April 24.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    People occupy Pua Loke Arboretum across from the homeless shelter and transitional housing operated by Kauai Economic Opportunity.

  • Ryan Collins / The Garden Island

    A sign on a tree at Pua Loke Arboretum Thursday afternoon gives notice from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to vacate by April 24.

  • Ryan Collins / The Garden Island

    A notice to remove objects is seen as posted by the state Department of Transportation inside the Haleko Shop Complex homeless encampment Thursday afternoon.

LIHUE — Signs hang ominously on trees in the Pua Loke Arboretum, across the street from the Kauai Economic Opportunity homeless shelter.

They were placed there by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, announcing, “As per the Board of Land and Natural Resource, no one can be in this area as of April 24, 2019.”

The date coincides with the state Department of Transportation’s notice to vacate the homeless encampment that rests on their land, directly behind the Haleko Shop Complex.

On Wednesday, DOT posted a “Notice to Remove Objects” signs similar to the ones at Pua Loke.

The signs formally gave notice people had 24 hours to remove their items, or they would be considered abandoned and would be “immediately removed.”

Thursday, a crowd of homeless waited outside the KEO shelter for a bed and food. Russel Baxter, who had been living at the encampment behind the Haleko complex, waited under his umbrella on the hot, sunny morning for his name to be called, hoping to have shelter for the night. The beds are given out on a first-come-, first-served basis.

“I kind of snapped out on somebody here (the KEO) and got fired,” Baxter said. “I started working back up with them recently and was told if I go to drug treatment and get the certification and drug treatment, I can come back into the shelter. So I did that. I’ve been clean and sober since and trying to get my life situated. I’m just tired of it. I’m tired of living like this.”

He adds he’s tired of losing stuff, things like not seeing his kids grow up and the relationships in his life.

“Now I’m regaining all that and I’m tired of sleeping on the street,” Baxter said. “They took a budget cut from 38 (rooms) to 19 because of some kind of funding.”

Acting County Housing Agency Director Steve Franco said: “The County of Kauai owns the land where the shelter sits and leases the improvements (shelter, transitional housing, offices) to KEO. The term of the lease is for 20 years effective June 8, 2005. In 2018, the county awarded KEO a Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $360,367 for the rehab of the KEO shelter. The rehab is still in process. Currently, there is no other funding from the county to KEO for the shelter.”

KEO Emergency Shelter Director Jason Honjiyo said, “We see it every day. It’s been there for about a year (the camp at Pua Loke). Department of Transportation is going to have them all leave next week (April 24). They’re doing this, they’re doing a bunch of sites.”

Honjiyo doesn’t know where the homeless will go, adding maybe they can stay with family or friends or get into the shelter, which is currently at capacity.

“All the service providers went out to do outreach,” Honjiyo said. “That’s why they posted the notices because it was a safety hazard to them.”

We need more inventory, just like everywhere else, Honjiyo added.

“We try our best,” he reiterated. “It’s too bad that we only have the one shelter.”

Back outside the shelter, Guendolyn Kalinski from Denver places ribbons on a tree. Kalinski is deaf and has been living at the arboretum for over a year. Her tent is one of 13 standing there during the day. At night, there will be more, she says.

“I’m decorating,” she says with a smile. “Yard art. Freestyle.”

Kalinski says she has talked to the police, who were there the day prior, and she was informed that anyone who remains on the DLNR Pua Loke Arboretum after the April 24 deadline will be removed. The sign posted in the arboretum says the area will be closed until further notice and to “please remove yourself and any personal possessions from this government-managed arboretum immediately. You will be legally cited if you remain on these premises as of April 24, 2019.”

Three resources are listed on a side sheet which is attached to a separate piece of paper, giving phone numbers for KEO, Mental Health Kokua and Hope, Help and Healing — Kauai.

“I lost my HUD housing, I lost my Social Security, they revoked my food stamps,” Kalinski said. “So I asked the man in charge of the police, he was the state of Hawaii police. Normally we get the Lihue police. Cited is ticketed, it’s not removed?”

A few blocks away at the Haleko homeless encampment, Edie Barsh strolls her bicycle to a power pole on Rice Street a few yards away from “home,” and locks it up, heading back inside the encampment. She says she feels safe there but will vacate to the Russian Fort after the deadline, and that she has been granted permission to stay there.

“Every night I stay here,” Barsh said, adding she suffered a traumatic brain injury some years back. “And the only reason I’ve stayed here is because I am tired.”

Barsh is grateful for the DOT allowing the camp to last as long as it has.

“I wish people are just appreciative of what they do have,” she said. “It’s a paradise here. Everything happens for a reason.”

Back at the Pua Loke Arboretum, volunteers handed out McDonald’s hamburgers to some of the homeless.

“Today is a very holy week, so maybe I remember then,” Centa Ragasa, with Immaculate Conception Church, said in between giving out hamburgers. “We give smiles. I go around, just me, and go to the County Building sometimes and give smiles at other places and for them.”

She hopes the island will do something about the situation.

“No one should be left behind,” Ragasa said. “There should be other needs that have to be met.”

  1. randy kansas April 19, 2019 6:29 am Reply

    no place to go ?

    how about go to work…..


    1. Loy Lum April 21, 2019 9:27 pm Reply

      Hi Randy,

      How about hiring one or more of them, so they can go to work?

  2. gordon oswald April 19, 2019 9:10 am Reply

    Homelessness is a huge problem! Those who are homeless for reasons outside of their control should be taken care of by our taxpayers. Those who are homeless because of bad choices, ie drugs, crime etc. Should be given a one way ticket to their original home and escorted off the Island.

  3. Rev Dr. Malama April 19, 2019 9:30 am Reply

    Mahalo Ke Akua for the loving care of volunteers who at least bring food and a smile to hand out to our brothers and sisters in need!!!
    Shame on the County of Kauai, DLNR and all the organizations making huge profits from the hardships of the poor and disabled!!! I have first hand experience of being mistreated and abused by the system that is PILLAGING the hud and HUMANITARIAN funding for personal gains … gross negligence and corruption is rampant….
    The Garden island newspaper could do better than to publish such a regurgitated article filled with here say and other mumbo jumbo….
    Oh, but I’m dreaming…. and waiting for the 2nd coming of Christ to lead us out of this pit of snakes…. so have hope and pray for a better life!!!

  4. Makani B. Howard April 19, 2019 9:35 am Reply

    Speaking of Holy Week….. why don’t the churches help out more? Where are they in the scheme of things? Aren’t they supposed to help the weak? Why don’t they help the homeless with housing? The churches, especially the Catholic Church, has loads of money!

  5. George Rowland April 19, 2019 10:06 am Reply

    The county and previous administrations have pushed for a M.E.R.F (materials recovery facility) to save our islands landfill and be more responsible to the environment. I believe a solution is to build a dual-use facility that can house, feed a percentage of homeless, and have them earn a living by having them work at the MERF. You cannot pay a standard wage to sort trash for recycling because there isn’t much value or profit in most of it. By employing these homeless people we give them a job and some value and a sense of worthiness in our community, but you are also keeping them off the streets, doing drugs, committing petty crimes (or worse!) They work they get a place to sleep & bathe and clean healthy meals. Our community gets a work force to run our trash/recycling center. This isn’t a perfect solution but a concept to formulate a new direction because what we’re doing now isn’t working!

    1. Loy Lum April 21, 2019 9:31 pm Reply

      Thank you George. Well thought out & well said.

  6. CommonSenseish April 19, 2019 12:18 pm Reply

    Why in the world SHOULD taxpayers have to take care of these people? It should be optional. It’s not my problem they are out there. Do you know how many times I’ve purchased an extra lunch in the past just to have it thrown away or gotten yelled at because they just wanted the money. There is so much assistance out there if they just look, but many of these people just walk around hopelessly all day. Many of these people moved here and started off homeless. I’ll gladly help with one way tickets out of here. It’s hard enough making it here with a full time job for myself and family let alone trying to be guilt tripped into trying to help these scrubs.

    1. Loy Lum April 21, 2019 9:47 pm Reply

      When we buy someone a lunch, that does not obligate anyone to accept it or thank us for it. Our willingness to help needs to be informed by the need for help. I was homeless on the streets of Honolulu for 12 years, & I’m capable of buying my own lunch if someone would hire me, but no one wants to hire the homeless. So a free lunch can be an insult to those who can work, want to work, but are refused employment in favor of someone who is already employed part-time, has housing, has a work history, has phone service, has transportation, has food, has clean, presentable clothing, & has access to sanitation, as well as access to the other commons, which the homeless are denied. Until you’ve walked a mile in your brother’s sandals . . .

  7. Sheeples April 19, 2019 5:26 pm Reply

    The sweep worked extremely well! Driving from the west to the east Friday morning I saw 7 down and out people between Kekaha beach and Hanapepe trodding west with their few worldly possessions in search of a new place to be homeless. Capitalism is so cool!

  8. Loy Lum April 21, 2019 9:49 pm Reply

    Until you’ve walked a mile in your brother’s shoes . . .

  9. Julia December 3, 2020 10:10 pm Reply

    Do you even how many locals are homeless? Everyone needs help at some point in there life, some more than others. Why should you get to say who’s worthy of help and who’s not? Your right homelessness is a big problem but so is negative, judgemental, hateful people. Homelessness is a problem in EVERY part of the world why should it be any different here, it’s called life.

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