Homeless Now Stashing Belongings at Honl’s Beach Overnight while They Sleep in Bushes
September 16, 2022, 6:30 AM HST
Honl’s Beach Park along touristy Ali‘i Drive was cleared this week of litter, coolers, pitched umbrellas and other items usually seen at the illegal campsites set up by homeless people. Kailua-Kona resident Terrell Lee relished the rare view of a pristine beach.
The problem, Lee said, is it didn’t last very long.
Roughly 48 hours after 52-year-old Bull, a homeless man, packed up his belongings and vacated the beach — following a complaint Lee sent to Hawaiʻi County’s Parks and Recreation Department and media outlets that prompted a visit from police — other homeless individuals flocked to the beach.
Only they did not sleep at the beach overnight but instead stashed their belongs and camping items along its rock wall.
“Marking their territory” is how Lee described the private items stored in public view. Coolers, bags, towels and other boxes are neatly stacked, but clearly visible.
Keoki Rosaga and Chris Crowder told Big Island Now they were asked by law enforcement on multiple occasions not to sleep overnight at the beach. They said they abided by the requests. But after hanging out at the beach during the day, Rosaga said he left behind some of their belongings overnight when he went to sleep in the bushes.
Rosaga, 42, knows police have been coming by the area to enforce the no camping rule, which is clearly stated on a sign posted at the beach. But he said he doesn’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed to stay at the beach, considering they are gracious to visitors, clean up the place, and have good relationships with neighbors, who sometimes swing by and give them full dinners.
“Our stuff is here, but we’re gone,” Rosaga said. “We don’t make no problems for nobody. I don’t know why people think that. I don’t see why they do this to us.”
Lee said using the beach as a storage unit is effectively keeping the public from using that section of the beach.
“By law as well as by what is morally correct, they should not be allowed to store things and reserve sections of our public beach,” he said. “The chairs, chaise lounges and umbrellas in the middle of the vegetation is even worse.”
On Thursday, Capt. Calvin Delaries of the Hawai’i Police Department said in an email that its Community Policing Section performs constant checks on all beaches on Aliʻi Drive, but did not tell any one individual or a group of people that they had 24 hours to vacate the properties.
“This is an ongoing issue that our community policing officers are working on with outside agencies [Prosecutor’s Office, Mayor’s Office and County Parks and Recreation] to address the homeless issue,” Capt. Delaries said.
Rosaga is a case in point. He said he has received about nine tickets for camping, which range from $50 fines to orders of community service.
The 2022 Point in Time Count found that homelessness on all neighbor islands, Hawai‘i Island included, increased slightly at 1% between 2020 and 2022.
For Rosaga, he said he doesn’t have many places to go. Bull wasn’t at the beach park on Thursday, Rosaga added, because he was in court fighting his latest ticket. Rosaga, who goes by the name Bula on the streets, said he’s waiting to get into a shelter through Hope Services, an islandwide homeless service provider.
“They tell us to go live in bush. We did, and they kicked us out,” Rosaga said. “They’re going to do this every time.”
Sweeps of homeless encampments aren’t uncommon around Kona. Old Airport Park has been the site of multiple tent city cleanup efforts, including in May, when Hope Services provided shelter for 20 individuals who had been camping alongside Kuakini Highway near the Kona Aquatics Swimming Pool.
Brandee Medino, executive director of Hope Services, said Thursday the centers had only two available beds out of the total 150 between their Hilo, Kona and Pāhoa locations. One of those two available beds was in Kona.
Crowder, who was hanging out at the beach with moped on Thursday, said he has tried to sleep at the beach a couple of times, but was quickly given a citation by the police. He said he learned his lesson, and sleeps in the bush near University of Nations off Kuakini Highway.
“I can’t afford to keep getting tickets and going to court,” he said. “I understand it’s like revenue but they’re not trying to figure any solution out.”
As far as asking the illegal campers to leave Honl’s, he doesn’t understand why. He thought they may be illegal tenants, but are good caretakers.
He said: “That whole area has never looked better.”