Serving the needs of the unsheltered during a pandemic is said to be within the purview of the Maui County Civil Defense Agency and The Department of Health. Yet little has been done to serve the population of Maui’s less fortunate. From COVID shelter-in-place day one, Maui County administration has been asked, how do we serve this sector of Maui’s residents? The answers have been dismal and the actions taken have worked against the wellness needs.
Instructions from Department of Health Maui District Dr. Pang were to let the those who are already in place, stay in place, make sure they have water, food, medical needs are taken care of.
Though Maui Mayor Victorino has stated in press conferences that there shall be no sweeps, the threats and insinuations continue. During the first week of COVID those who lived in their cars, technically not unsheltered, were receiving tickets at the multiple closed parks around the island. In effort to reduce ticketing, many destined for central Maui’s coastline stretching from the popular kite surfing locale of Kanaha Beach Park across Waiehu Beach Road and fronting the Yhata warehouse.
Still, with no bathroom facilities and limited access to water, citations ensued. During one visit six different family residents shared the tickets they received for all sorts of unfair offenses due to extraordinary circumstances. One of them was for ‘human habitation’. None of the tickets had a court date thus making these erroneous tickets proof of sheer harassment. Should any of these tickets escalate to a warrant, their meager pocketbook wouldn’t be able to pay.
While it would appear that an announcement from the mayor would be enough to get everyone on the same page, communication breakdowns and evasiveness has worsened the already bad. On a weekly basis, unsheltered residents fear the dismantling and destruction of their humble encampments. No sweeps, or what the County refers to as “compassionate response”, can be made if there are no beds available in on-island shelters. To date, there is none.
A myriad of recent Maui County Council agenda items has those who work in this service provider area scuttling for explanations. The first item was a proposal to bifurcate the Department of Housing and Human Concerns and another, the introduction to a Commission on Healing Solutions for Homelessness. In the later item, the agencies who are tasked to house, transition and support the unsheltered are continually defensive about the jobs they do and that they are doing all they can. While this may be true, the need to ask for assistance in any shape must be vocalized some how.
It is time for those involved to drop egos and time for police officers to extend community policing methodologies and back off these fragile residents who desperately need help not harassment.
This continued community outreach failure is a form of keeping people distracted and the lack of unified leadership gives a convenient out for those who should be leading the charge. Maui County can do more and no better time than now when you can easily identify those in need and implement new and creative solutions.
The needs are very real and the recent impending storm Douglas was a drill for all who work in this sector. In a meeting with Maui County Department of Housing and Human Concerns it was conveyed that the top administrators did not feel overwhelmed or busy. If the Maui County Department of Housing and Human Concerns is not busy, something is wrong. The intent of the department has lacked luster for some time.
Recent field trips by police officers and agency workers to populated homeless encampments have been suspicious in nature. While sandwiches are helpful, why would an accompanying police officer indicate that in one week a bulldozer will be arriving to demolish the little areas that people have been able to stay-in-place versus shelter-in-place. At the core, this is an assault on human life.
When calls are made to the departments and leads that are tasked to handle this area of work, those on the other end of the phone line need stop demonizing inquiries, this is Maui, it used to be, No Ka Oi (the best), what happened?
The despondent staffers in this arena need to realize the intentional chaos they have created and take a 180 degree turn towards creative solutions.
• Testify in support of the proposed Commission on Healing Solutions for Homelessness, August 14, 2020. Maui County Council agendas posted here: Maui County Council Calendar
• Visit Facebook page Stop Illegal Sweeps of Maui’s Unsheltered
• Support Share Your Mana with monetary, food, and first aid packets assembly
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