Life at Lydgate Park

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Michael Texeira talks story from outside his tent at the Lydgate Park houseless camp.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    “I have to cook for my wife, too,” said Michael Texeira, inside his tent at the Lydgate Park houseless camp.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Napuanani McKeague shows the handiwork of one of the Lydgate Park houseless camp tenants, inside the restroom at the park.

WAILUA — Michael Texeira has lived at Lydgate Park, one of the county’s five beach-park houseless encampments, since the beginning of the pandemic, with his disabled wife, whom he takes care of.

Their campsite, on a slight hill overlooking the pavilion, consists of a pop-up structure protecting their red-and-white camping tent with a grey tarp over a picnic table that hosts food, a hot plate and other necessities. Their four-month-old puppy, Akami, sits watch.

Late last week, Texeira, as well as other permitted campers, said county park rangers came into the campsite warning them that pop-up structures had to be removed or face citations.

His pop-up, Texeira said, offers stability and protection from the elements.

“Rain wipes out everything,” Texeira, 60, said. “It’s dangerous.”

In April, Mayor Derek Kawakami signed into effect an emergency rule that established five houseless beach encampments.

The designated county campgrounds include Lucy Wright Park, Salt Pond Beach Park, Anahola Beach Park, ‘Anini Beach Park and Lydgate. All other county campgrounds are closed, and issued permits were canceled through the end of the year, due to the virus, according to the county.

Each month, residents of the grounds are required to apply for month-long temporary camping permits, regardless of age.

In January, an official overnight Homeless Point-In-Time Count discovered 424 people either living in shelters or unsheltered. This was a slight decrease from 2019’s houseless count of 443.

But, this year, there were more who were unsheltered. But this count was conducted before the pandemic.

This April, the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation stated it had “established maximum capacities for each of the five campgrounds that were designated for our houseless community in order to provide for the health, safety and welfare of them and the people of Kaua‘i from the potential spread of the novel coronavirus.” This press release, however, did not state the maximum capacity.

Napuanani McKeague is the founder of Voices for Kaua‘i, what she calls a “non-non-profit,” which assists other houseless families and individuals. McKeague keeps a log of every day at the Lydgate camp, recording a roster of each person and family, their circumstances, which campsite their at, and more. By her count, there are about 90 people at the Lydgate Lahui.

McKeague, along with others, also offer counseling to other residents, and assists in connecting them to county and nonprofit resources.

“It’s what we can do,” she said. “We’re just trying to survive.”

Some rules for the camp, she said, are violations of civil and human rights. “If the county was interested in keeping the camp safe or making it more uniform, it could provide tents and more structure,” she said. How it is now, it’s up to the permittees to decide, and their power is limited.

“Just because we’re out here doesn’t mean our rights can be abandoned,” McKeague said.

Park rangers have come into the camp late at night before quiet hours or early in the morning before sunrise to check on compliance of rules. A suspected raid was set to occur in the early hours today.

“They shine their lights into the tents,” Texeira said. “They don’t respect our privacy.” McKeague agreed. “It’s a lack of humanity.” And it goes further. It’s a fear the houseless community lives in that every day they could return and find their belongings gone.

“Tents are our most valuable possessions,” McKeague said, and the items in those tents, or outside in the camp site, may be all the possessions a person has in this world.

When asked Friday if there would be an enforcement raid on Monday, the Parks and Recreation Department would not confirm or deny.

County public-information officers, who act as liaisons between media and county departments, did not provide a follow-up when asked if pop-up tents were allowed or if there would be new enforcement of rules.

As custom with the emergency rules, penalties include $100 for first offense, $200 for a second, and so forth, not to exceed $500.

However, the mayor’s emergency rules regarding the designated camping zones were last re-upped on Sept. 30, with an Oct. 31 expiration date. There have been no emergency rules regarding the designated county campgrounds since.

“I follow the rules, one all the way to 20,” Texeira said. “They’re trying to add rules, scare tactics. People get angry. They’ve been lied to, cheated. I’m exhausted.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the unsheltered houseless population is at risk for community spread of COVID-19. The CDC recommends overflow shelters, isolation and quarantine campsites and sufficient signage about the virus.

“(After all this time) they (the county) still don’t think about us,” McKeague said.

Saturday afternoon, McKeague walked to the women’s bathroom.

Outside, an aquatic mural decorates a wall with ceramic fish. Inside, one camp resident and family painted a mural celebrating Hawaiian culture to bring some light to the community. A playful honu (turtle) and nai‘a (dolphin) swim through the bright blues of the ocean on the wall. Depictions of native fruit line the shower stalls.

While it might seem like an improvement, it’s been deemed graffiti, McKeague said. She’ll be sad to see the mural gone if the county does decide to paint over it.

“This stopped the nasty-kine graffiti. This is not graffiti, this is somebody’s passion,” she said. “This is somebody’s art.”

19 Comments
  1. nobody December 14, 2020 7:00 am Reply

    It was easy for the county to shut down the island to keep it safe. Not so good at fixing things.

    Now most residents have lost some of their parks.

    Build cheap, tiny houses, somewhere. Ignore zoning rules that favor property values.


  2. David Sigala December 14, 2020 7:31 am Reply

    Mayor Derek Kawakame ordered these Refuge Camps but
    did not provide for the humane care of the people. A prime
    example of a bureaucrat puffed up for the “covid” crisis but
    has no heart or compassion for the people of Kaua’i.


  3. Rev Dr Malama December 14, 2020 8:08 am Reply

    Where are the privileged elites…. doctors and others who have the extra time and money to help our houseless???? Start putting more pressure on the Health Department to at least provide appropriate sanitary face masks, hot water and soap in the bathrooms and showers!!!!
    The whole world is watching…. and asking “what would Christ do?”


    1. Jess Us December 14, 2020 3:10 pm Reply

      Probably turn that water into wine, alcohol is a very good disinfectant and can be drunk as well.


    2. CommonSenseish December 14, 2020 3:55 pm Reply

      Excuse me? Doctors who have extra time? Are you joking me? Why does the world have to bend over for these people? I work hard for my home and hot water. I pay it all out of my own pocket. Get plenty jobs right now for these people, and plenty assistance programs too. They can work hard and stand in line like the rest of us.


  4. kimo Edwards December 14, 2020 9:37 am Reply

    This article is short on detail needed for us to accurately asses the real question being asked here; Where is the line between enforcing the same rules for everyone, and harassment?
    Is the Mayor’s order still in place or has it expired? Are unlimited tents allowed anywhere, or only in designated camping spaces? Is a permit required? Is anyone allowed to paint a county facility to their choosing? Are the unpermitted vagrants there allowed to strip down cars, bicycles, and deal drugs unabated? Perhaps the real question at the root of this is… is Lydgate park an appropriate location for the Mayor to put a houseless camp?


    1. Terra byte April 22, 2021 8:38 pm Reply

      Yaasssssss


  5. Makani B. Howard December 14, 2020 10:07 am Reply

    How is it that someone who has no money to live, has money for tatoos all over his body? Those aren’t cheap!

    I feel for the homeless, but they should be put in proper homes, not in the parks! Help them by putting them with a real roof over their heads, like in some unused abandoned building. There are plenty of them! Then, there wouldn’t be trash all over our parks!!


    1. Joy December 14, 2020 5:48 pm Reply

      Makani: Perhaps those tattoos were put on when times were better for him. I do agree that a solid roof over their heads would be better.


    2. Minni December 15, 2020 10:48 am Reply

      Do those look like expensive tattoos to you? Maybe got for free in prison.


  6. Joe Public December 14, 2020 10:17 am Reply

    This area needs to be cleaned up, it is a mess.


  7. Gill Matevan December 14, 2020 4:11 pm Reply

    I fully agree with Kimo, just one more question : How many of the so called houseless people are not permanent residences of Kauai, but all over the USA. I do not agree Kauai people to pay for their convenience. And what about illegal kamp sites like that one south of St. Catherine cemetery in Kapa’a ? Yesterday there are 10 (ten) abandoned cars and we all are forced to pay for their removal. If the Mayor is capable to close the Island for second time this year, let show us that solving the problem with the homeless is a piece of cake for him.


  8. I saw a Vampire once December 14, 2020 9:10 pm Reply

    Where’s the shower? In the ocean. I thought they cleaned up this area of all homeless people. Don’t they have affordable housing for them? Like $0 income but still get by on stipend or food donations. Can’t they find a home in a town? This is getting worse. There was no such thing as this in the 1990s. Now they have it and it’s well known their home is on the park. Any ideas of cleaning this mess up?


  9. David December 15, 2020 4:39 am Reply

    I read an article about Austin Texas partial solution, a Community of mini homes each rented from $200 to $300 per month, providing security for homeless and a sense of community. Why does Texas have more Aloha than Hawaii.


  10. Kawika Anahola December 15, 2020 7:32 am Reply

    I really love the “poor me, give me more” attitude. Lubricated with alcohol & drugs, our parks & homelands are getting literally crapped on & turned into drug super centers & dumps. Get a life. Take the steps to be self sufficient. Be proud, keep our parks & homelands clean. Aloha


    1. Lora March 21, 2021 7:08 am Reply

      I totally agree I do have compassion for the less fortunate here’s the thing how much is homeless and our parents are not a place for them to get like to check out children and her grandchildren and however homeless people are very scary sometimes for these young children.
      I need to take responsibility upon themselves


  11. Rev Dr Malama December 16, 2020 9:22 am Reply

    The disportionate equation of the haves vs the have nots is a blatant statement of the immorality and godlessness that plagues the world at this point in time…..
    Yes we need answers to questions left ignored by the County and the Newspapers….
    What would Buddha say????
    This situation in our parks and other areas is a HUMANITARIAN CRISIS!!!
    ARE YOU GOING TO BE PART OF THE PROBLEM OR CONTRIBUTE TO THE SOLUTION?????
    EDUCATION IS A VERY GOOD STARTING POINT TO FIGURE OUT HOW WE GOT HERE AND HOW TO MAKE HAWAI’I GREAT AGAIN!!!
    Watch, listen and read here if nothing else….. please!
    HAWAIIANKINGDOM.ORG


  12. Greg December 16, 2020 1:16 pm Reply

    I don’t think I can relate to houseless people since I grew up in a stable home, got a good education, was taught by my parents’ example the value of hard work, and was fortunate enough to land good jobs. I just figure a lot of people out there were less fortunate than me and for whatever reason they aren’t capable of living their lives the way the rest of society thinks they should. I think life would be better for everyone if we could figure out a solution to this problem.


  13. Lora March 21, 2021 7:03 am Reply

    I do not believe that it is our responsibility to provide tents, shelters or even the Beautiful parks, for the homeless people. they are choosing to be homeless because they choose to have no responsibilities!


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