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Leaders of the Waianae Boat Harbor homeless encampment known as Puuhonua O Waianae say that Gov. David Ige met with them Tuesday and pledged that there will be no sweep of the camp.
“They are going to work together with us to see if we can find another property and just go from there,” said James Pakele, a Waianae resident and Puuhonua O Waianae volunteer who was at the meeting.
Pakele said the meeting took place in Nanakuli at the home of Hawaiian surfing legend and original Hokulea crew member Richard “Buffalo” Keaulana.
The governor’s office declined to comment or confirm the meeting, but a photo of Ige with camp leader Twinkle Borge was posted on Facebook Tuesday night.
“I can confirm that our office continues to meet with members of the community,” said Cindy McMillan, communications director for Ige.
The meeting came one week after a representative of the Department of Land and Natural Resources and state homeless coordinator Scott Morishige made a surprise announcement that the state planned to clear the land where the encampment sits by June in order to make room for a marine education center.
Morishige’s announcement drew swift condemnation from members of the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board, who said the community needed to be given more of an opportunity to weigh in on such a big decision.
People have been living in tents and makeshift structures on state-owned land bordering the Waianae Boat Harbor for more than a decade. The unique community is self-governed, has established rules, and has even obtained nonprofit status — part of an ongoing effort by camp leaders to show that they are part of the solution to the state’s homeless crisis, not the problem.
“This is our home,” Borge told a group of about 40 residents of the encampment Tuesday afternoon.
People lined up to embrace her after she shared the news that a sweep was off the table. Some people applauded. One woman wiped away tears.
“It’s a beautiful day,” Borge said. “I feel very blessed.”
According to Pakele and Borge, the governor did not say their community could stay permanently on the land. Instead, he promised that his administration would work with them to find a path forward — without the threat of an impending eviction.
“We get a seat at the table and to be part of the discussion,” Pakele said. “Up until now a lot of the discussions have not included people from the village who are going to be affected.”
Borge says her community has been actively looking for land where they can relocate. Her goal is for people in the camp to be able to move somewhere together and remain a community.
Although the state has pivoted on its plans with the encampment before, Borge and Pakele said they are hopeful that the governor’s commitment to them will stand.
“He is working with us,” Borge said. “I told him straight up, we can help each other.”
The Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board is scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss Puuhonua O Waianae.
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