WAIMEA — Roy Arizo, a retired, homeless Native Hawaiian, was evicted out of the Shelter in Place zone in Lucy Wright Park in Waimea on Superbowl Sunday because he did not take his tent down.
Arizo’s tent was made up of tarps, bamboo sticks and rope, and tied to the park’s baseball backstop. That backstop is county property, and attaching his dwelling to it is a violation of the rules that came with the establishment of the temporary zones set aside for houseless people to camp during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those staying in the zones are required to secure a permit and initial a list of the 21 rules outlined in the permit.
Arizo says he didn’t know about the rule he violated until it was too late. The rule states “camping materials/gear should not be secured to any vegetation or county facility.”
County Director of Parks and Recreation Patrick Porter told The Garden Island that Arizo was warned he was in violation of the rule multiple times before he was evicted.
“The individual was warned and cited on multiple occasions for not following park rules,” Porter said in an email. “After repeated offenses, his permit was revoked.”
Arizo has been staying in Lucy Wright Park since 2019, after moving back to Kaua‘i from Utah. He said the camp was in terrible shape, so he took it upon himself to help care for the area by mowing the lawn and by cleaning county pavilions and restrooms.
“This was my birthplace, where I was born and raised, so I decided to stay,” Arizo said. “The park has changed from when I first came. Everybody got together, we started cleaning the area, keeping the park clean and picking up after each other,” he said.
”I made a garden, we mowed the lawn for nine months. The county only took care of the bathroom, but we took care of the trash and added the toilet paper.”
Arizo says he witnessed “things going on worse than a string tied off to a backstop” at the park temporary camping zone, and he says he should have been given more time to bring his tent into compliance with the rules.
“It was nice and it wasn’t endangering nobody,” he said.
Hanapepe resident Mike Kocher said he often picks up Arizo and finds him work on the Westside. He witnessed Arizo being addressed by county staff before Arizo was evicted.
“I don’t know, they think he’s causing troubles,” Kocher said. “He’s trying to make the place look a little better with his little garden, and there was no rubbish in front of his place.
“You know, the mayor comes out with this pandemic plan and tells everybody, ‘don’t go anywhere, you guys stay where you’re at.’ And these people are complying and they’re trying to make the place a little bit nicer. Yet they’re getting evicted.”
Councilmember Felicia Cowden has been watching the situation, and said Arizo’s eviction is part of a bigger picture.
“All of this is but a symptom of the real problem of economic and cultural displacement that is larger than the rangers or the residents in the parks,” Cowden said.
“Roy is a reflection of camp residents who place the emotional protection of others above their own best interests. I also feel for our park rangers who have to be the ones to set and enforce rules.”
Arizo, who is temporarily staying with a friend, said he hopes his story will help others in his position and ensure fair treatment for others.
“This is our time to help someone, not just pulling them down and make them feel worse,” Arizo said. “That park has been so blessed. People were helping each other out. It was good. And the community even liked it, where all the homeless were in one place instead of roaming the streets.”
Stephanie Shinno, education, business, and community reporter can be reached at 245-0424 or email@example.com.