HOPE Services Express Frustration Over Recent Deaths, Attacks on Houseless Residents
June 10, 2022, 3:30 PM HST
The apparent murders of two Kona men experiencing homelessness as well as the assaults of two houseless individuals in Hilo has community outreach leaders sad and frustrated.
Chito Asuncion is accused of fatally stabbing 48-year-old Boyd Maygra and 63-year-old Brian Macaulay, both of Kailua-Kona. The 24-year-old is also accused of assaulting a 59-year-old man and a 70-year-old Hilo woman in Hilo.
Asuncion was charged with first-degree murder, which applies when an individual murders more than one person; two counts of second-degree murder; and two counts of second-degree attempted murder. He scheduled to appear in Kona District Court for a preliminary hearing on Monday, June 13.
“These attacks are heinous, but no one responsible for making housing policy should be surprised,” stated HOPE Services officials. “People experiencing homelessness are physically, medically and mentally vulnerable and do not have the security that housed people are accustomed to.”
HOPE Services is a nonprofit organization that offers street outreach, emergency shelter, transitional and permanent supportive housing, rapid rehousing, rental assistance, disaster relief services, and more to those experiencing homelessness, and those in imminent danger of becoming homeless. Just last month, the nonprofit assisted 20 homeless Hawaiʻi residents with emergency shelter and services after they were displaced following a county sweep.
The residents told HOPE Services outreach workers they were previously staying in the bushes at Old Kona Airport Park before having to relocate after the sweep. With no assistance to find shelter, the 20 residents moved and pitched 11 tents outside the Kona Community Aquatic Center. Most individuals within that camp lost homes because rent became unaffordable or as a result of family issues.
Nonprofit officials say acts of violence against the houseless community are one of the reasons they advocate “so hard for adequate funding for social services, and for access to affordable housing.”
“We assist where we can, but as a nonprofit organization, we cannot fill the gap caused by our government’s failure to adequately fund the services that make it possible for people to get off the streets,” officials stated.
HOPE Services has a team of nine street outreach workers who keep in touch with the houseless communities through regular visits. She couldn’t confirm whether that team had been in touch with the friends and family of the victims.
While the organization doesn’t offer grief counseling, they do offer safety within the shelters.
“Our hearts go out to the victims and survivors, and we call on the rest of our community to demand that the government take measures to prevent violence against our unhoused neighbors, by making affordable housing and social services available now,” HOPE Services officials stated.
Hawai‘i County Council is currently in the process of taking up several measures to address affordable housing and homelessness.