WAIPAHU » Pastor Joe Hunkin picked his way around rusted car axles, propane tanks and two-by-fours studded with bent nails to find a homeless encampment where people have been cooking and sleeping directly behind Waipahu High School, in an area that received unwanted national attention this month.
Hunkin walked past a pit bull puppy and peered over a makeshift shelter of tents and tarp hidden by koa haole and elephant grass, then pointed toward the high school’s athletic complex barely a football field away.
“The school is right over there,” Hunkin said last week. “This isn’t right.”
The strip of land is bounded by Waipahu High School on one side and the calming waters of Pearl Harbor’s Middle Loch on the other, where the Navy’s mothball fleet sits idle. It’s the most visible portion of an enormous homeless encampment that stretches five miles over approximately 50 acres of city, Navy and state land that serpentines around Waipio Point Access Road, the Ted Makalena Golf Course and the city’s Waipio Soccer Complex and back down to Pearl City in the opposite direction, said Beth Chapman, who uncharacteristically lost a suspect in the swampy brush last year after five straight days of searching the area with her husband, Duane “Dog” Chapman, and their bounty hunting family.
In an episode of “Dog The Bounty Hunter” that aired on the A&E network two weeks ago, the Chapmans mounted mo-peds and switched their SUVs into four-wheel drive to navigate the area, where they discovered about 60 different encampments, Beth Chapman said last week in a telephone interview from Canada, where “Dog” was on a publicity tour.
The Chapmans have waded into homeless encampments plenty of times before in the islands—but nothing like the area around the golf course and soccer complex where Beth got two flat tires and Duane’s daughter, “Baby Lyssa,” had to rock her SUV back and forth to escape a muddy patch.
“That’s real jungle land back there,” Beth Chapman said. “The foliage was 10, 12 feet high with paths that lead everywhere into moats with people walking around with machetes. If you’re the criminal element, those are the best places to hide in. They’ve got that whole place mapped out. They know every nook and cranny and they know how to escape quick.”
Doran J. Porter, executive director of the Affordable Housing and Homeless Alliance, believes more and more homeless encampments like the one behind Waipahu High School are springing up on Oahu as Honolulu police and city officials continue to push Oahu’s homeless off of beaches and out of city parks.
“I don’t know why it would surprise anyone that they’ve found these places,” Porter said. “You get kicked out of one place, you have to find somewhere else to survive the night. … And now their desperation is starting to show.”