LIHU‘E — As the county shuts down its shelter-in-place beach encampments that have been used for the past year by the houseless community, several nonprofits are partnering with the county to provide social, housing and medical services.
The first is Monday, March 8, at ‘Anini Beach Park at 10 a.m., and will be repeated once a month at each individual camp prior to their closures.
Participating providers include Malama Pono Health Services, Women In Need, Project Vision, Child &Family Service, Kaua‘i Economic Opportunity Street Outreach and the state Department of Education.
Some providers will begin offering services around 7:30 a.m., according to the county, for early-bird assistance and to meet the needs of individuals who may need to get to work.
As of Feb. 23, the county has 236 permits issued to houseless individuals across the island to stay at these beach parks. That included 25 keiki. But county Department of Parks and Recreation officials know that number doesn’t represent how many houseless individuals are roaming the streets or staying at the camps.
“We know that there’s probably more campers that have gone unpermitted that come and go, come in the evening, leave in the morning,” department Deputy Director Wally Rezentes told the Kaua‘i County Council last week. “We know this number is on the lower side, but that is what we have documented.”
The staggered closings criss-cross the island, closing ‘Anini and Anahola beach parks, the northernmost camps, then closing the westernmost, Lucy Wright Park. The county will continue to offer permits at open parks as capacity allows.
“Everything is going to be based on availability as we move forward,” Rezentes said.
The program started March 4, 2020, and was led by the Department of Parks and Recreation as a means to control population movement during the pandemic. This rule was established along with the county’s nightly curfew.
“Early on in the COVID-19 response, the Kaua‘i Emergency Management Team made a decision to try to take care of the houseless population, since they are a vulnerable population to disease, to make a conscious effort to take care of that population,” Parks and Recreation Director Patrick Porter said last month.
These five county beach parks were chosen for the amenities provided, like running water, bathrooms and showers, Porter said.
As part of the transition, the county will also offer transportation for individuals who have alternative places to live, or to another park.
County Housing Agency Director Adam Roversi said the county is working on locating appropriate camping areas and potentially a parking-space program, where cars can safely park overnight. But these proposals are not ready at this time.
“In order to do that, you really have to provide hygiene facilities,” Roversi said. “We’re limited on where those can be and available property to do that. But we have a couple ideas in mind.”
County Managing Director Michael Dahilig explained that the county no longer has the authority to impose emergency proclamations the way it once did when the shelter-in-place program was established, which makes it more difficult to “activate other spaces within the state or county’s jurisdictions.”
Both ‘Anini and Anahola beach parks will close March 31. About a week later, on April 5, the county plans to begin site cleanup and maintenance. Recreational camping will resume April 30.
Monday’s outreach event is intended to offer services, food and small goods.
”These events are not intended to accept donated items which individuals will need to move with them when the shelter-in-place program discontinues,” according to a county press release.
The county and nonprofits will offer services at the following beach parks as follows:
w ‘Anini Beach Park: Monday, March 8, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.;
w Lucy Wright Beach Park: Thursday, April 8, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.;
w Lydgate Beach Park: Tuesday, May 4, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.;
w Salt Pond Beach Park: Thursday, June 3, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.