WAILUA — A homeless encampment on state conservation lands that contained dozens of people was dismantled on Monday, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
More than a month ago, DLNR Land Division posted signage warning those on the Koki Road parcel to vacate the property, which is adjacent to the former Coco Palms Resort and nearby a neighborhood, the department said.
More than a dozen officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) and state Sheriffs oversaw the operation.
Alison Neustein, Kaua‘i district land agent, said those involved in Monday’s operation has empathy for people who find themselves houseless. “However, state conservation lands are clearly not the place for these large encampments,” Neustein said. “For example, the Koki Road site is in a flood zone, so it has potential human safety issues.”
During the sweep, campers were allowed to take their belongings and identify items that will be stored for 30 days before disposal, if unclaimed.
Over the past year, DLNR has received several complaints about the encampment. Neighbors, on a hill overlooking the encampment had complained about noise and smoke from campfires.
There are no sanitary facilities on the land, though the campers had brought in portable toilets and put up a shower house, Neustein noted. She added one resident had to shut off her water service after getting extraordinarily high bills and suspected one of the campers was stealing her water.
As contract work crews loaded up trucks with rubbish and materials the campers didn’t want to keep, several of the workers taped eviction notices and additional no-trespassing warnings to the guava trees in the camp. Clean-up of the parcel is expected to take all week.
Other than a few verbal disputes between campers, the eviction was peaceful, DLNR reported. One person who’d announced his intention to enter the closed area was cited by DOCARE officers and then left the area.
“We all understand how difficult and expensive it is to find housing on Kaua‘i, though some of these folks have refused offers of shelter or transitional housing and will likely show up elsewhere. We have to do our jobs and uphold the laws and rules which preclude these encampments on public lands,” Neustein said.