Despite widely circulated rumors Thursday of an impending sweep of Hawaii’s largest homeless encampment, state Homeless Coordinator Scott Morishige said he is not aware of any plans for a sweep of The Harbor.

“Any action by the state would be based on input received from the community as well as data we’ve received from service providers,” Scott Morishige said Thursday.

That community input should include people living at the Waianae encampment as well as the surrounding area, Morshige said.

More than 200 people live in tents and makeshift homes on state land between the Waianae Boat Harbor and Waianae High School.
More than 200 people live in tents and makeshift homes on state land between the Waianae Boat Harbor and Waianae High School. Civil Beat

The Harbor sits on land owned by the Department of Land and Natural Resources. In an email to Civil Beat last month, a DLNR spokesman said that all state agencies are coordinating their homeless responses through Morishige — making it highly unlikely that any plans for The Harbor would be in the works without his knowledge.

Morishige told Civil Beat last month that his office was just in the beginning stages of talking to social service providers about The Harbor. Initial feedback had been that a sweep of The Harbor would be counterproductive, he said.

Instead, there needs to be a deeper conversation about “how you create a pathway from The Harbor to homes,” he said.

Waianae is one of three areas that Gov. David Ige said the state would be focusing on next after concluding the sweeps in Kakaako and declaring a state of emergency on homelessness in October.

But Morishige said that focusing on homelessness in Waianae did not necessarily mean an enforcement-heavy approach. Instead, the state wants to look closely at data for each area and engage in conversations to develop solutions that will likely differ by community, he said.

Concerns among people living at The Harbor on Thursday that they needed to begin packing their bags came a day after state Rep. Jo Jordan appeared on Hawaii News Now calling for a sweep of the community.

Her position on The Harbor, though now more widely disseminated, is not new. In an interview with Civil Beat last month, Jordan said she wanted to see the community removed and the land developed for public use.

Still, concerns about a sweep after the newscast spread quickly.

One manager from a social service nonprofit emailed Civil Beat on Thursday morning to say that she was planning on going to The Harbor on Thursday to offer any assistance she could “before the rumored sweeps start.”

“I know this is not permanent,” Twinkle Borge, The Harbor’s de facto leader, said Thursday. “But if it works, it works.”

Rep. Andria Tupola planned to hold a forum on homelessness in the Waianae area Thursday evening at the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center.

Read Civil Beat’s series, “The Harbor.”

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