U.S. ARMY GARRISON HAWAIʻI AND STATE JOIN FORCES TO ADDRESS HOMELESS ENCAMPMENT IN WAIPIʻO
News release from Representative Trish La Chica Dec 8, 2023
CENTRAL OʻAHU – Representative Trish La Chica is pleased to share that the United States Army Garrison Hawaiʻi (USAG-HI) and the Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation (HDOT) have joined forces to clear waste and debris from a sizable homeless encampment in Kīpapa Gulch, along Kamehameha Highway. The encampment, which is encroached on land managed by USAG-HI, posed unique challenges for concerned agencies and the community.
"The coordination of this cleanup event between the U.S. Army Garrison and HDOT is a testament to the strength of our cooperation, demonstrating how the U.S. Army and the State of Hawaiʻi can work together effectively to resolve challenges that impact us all," said Colonel Steven McGunegle, Garrison Commander of USAG-HI. "This partnership highlights our commitment to community safety, environmental stewardship, and compassionate outreach. This initiative not only cleans up the land but also connects vulnerable populations with essential support services, fostering a safer and more united community."
The area was initially cleared in September by USAG-HI, and the individuals at the site were offered outreach services and transitional shelter by Achieve Zero, a nonprofit organization that previously served as a homeless service provider.
Despite outreach and relocation efforts, debris has remained at the encampment, including generators, mechanical parts, discarded syringes and needles, and electrical wiring, posing a significant threat to public safety.
"The unique circumstances surrounding the encampment required follow-up and further collaboration between several federal and state entities," remarked Representative La Chica. "Mahalo to Colonel McGunegle, Colonel Green, and Director Sniffen, along with their respective teams, for prioritizing our community and their efficiency in addressing this complex issue."
Hawaiʻi State Representative Trish La Chica initiated contact with USAG-HI in August and coordinated an initial meeting and site visit in early November. At the meeting, USAG-HI Garrison Commander Col. Steven McGunegle and Directorate of Emergency Services Director Col. Charles Green met with Rep. La Chica to discuss the removal of debris as well as possible ways for USAG-HI to work with the State of Hawaiʻi to address homelessness in the area and other areas on Oʻahu efficiently and with compassion.
"The collective efforts to address the encampment, provide essential outreach services, and clear the remaining debris were only made possible through the coordinated efforts between U.S. Army Garrison Hawaiʻi, state agencies, and Achieve Zero," added Rep. La Chica. "This process represents the impact that similar partnerships can have in our community, and I extend my deepest gratitude to our partners."
Photos are courtesy Office of Representative Trish La Chica.