Bicycles. Clothing. Toys. Kalo plants. Supplies to build composting toilets.
So many donations and gifts have been pouring into The Harbor this month that leaders of Hawaii’s largest and most unusual homeless community loaded up a truck Sunday afternoon with clothing and blankets to share with a church-run homeless camp a few miles away.
Some of the gifts have been unusual. Twinkle Borge, the community’s leader and main spokesperson, said friends have given her the supplies to build three showers and more than a dozen self-contained composting eco-toilets.
“We are trying to be more self-sufficient,” Borge said.
The biggest gift this year though, she said, is the overall outpouring of support from the surrounding community.
“God is good,” she said.
Borge organizes a Christmas party for people living in The Harbor every year. This year’s event, held Saturday, attracted more people from the surrounding community than ever before. In all, several hundred people attended, she said.
Close to 250 people, including more than three dozen children, live in the woods bordering the Waianae Boat Harbor. Civil Beat spent several months reporting on this unique community for a special series published in November.
The community is unusual not just for its size, but its self-governing structure.
Since the Civil Beat series was published, a number of individuals and groups have come forward to try and help people living there.
On Sunday, roughly two dozen children from The Harbor community sat in a circle in the nearby park while volunteers handed out bags of neatly wrapped Christmas presents.
“Thank you!” the children yelled out in unison, as they unwrapped sports balls, games, and even bicycle parts.
Hawaii Information Service partnered with Tyrell’s Angels after reading the Civil Beat series to fulfill the Christmas wish lists of some of the children living in The Harbor community. The two organizations worked with several other local businesses to raise more than $1,000 in cash and other donations to purchase gifts and host Sunday’s event.
Tyrell’s Angels is a small family-run organization that has been working with The Harbor community for several years. Last summer the group placed a portable toilet at the entrance to the encampment, and the group hosts regular events for families living there.
Last month Borge and her second in command, Rose Loke Chung-Lono, came up with a new name for the community, one that they will also use for the nonprofit organization they hope to form to pursue a lease for the state-owned land where The Harbor sits. Puuhonua O Waianae means “sanctuary.”
State Homeless Coordinator Scott Morishige met with Borge earlier in December.
Borge is receiving help in her quest to establish a more permanent status for the community from well-known Hawaiian sovereignty activist Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele.
Kanahele negotiated a 55-year lease of state-owned land in Waimanalo after leading a lengthy protest in the early 1990s in which hundreds of people occupied a state beach. That Waimanalo land is now home to a Hawaiian village.
On Dec. 1, the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board passed a resolution supporting Borge and Chung-Lono’s leadership of the unique community, and calling on the state to give them a lease for the land.
A week later, a local business owner brought dozens of kalo plants and helped people living in The Harbor plant them.
Someone else has offered to plant breadfruit trees next month, Chung-Lono said Sunday.
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