For immediate release

Friday, February 23, 2024

Media contact: Kristen Alice, Director of Community Relations

Cell: 808-938-7239


HOPE Services Hawai’i Statement on Kona Community Aquatic Center Encampment Enforcement


Yesterday, Thursday, February 22, 2024, HOPE Services Hawaiʻi responded to a homeless encampment enforcement initiated by the County of Hawaiʻi at the Kona Community Aquatic Center at 75-5500 Kuakini Highway in Kailua-Kona. Our Outreach team was made aware of the impending enforcement about a week in advance and immediately diverted their attention and resources to assisting our houseless community members residing at the aquatic center. All the people displaced by yesterday’s enforcement are Hawaiʻi residents.


Here are some Questions and Answers about our response to yesterday’s enforcement.


Which agencies were on site?

  • HOPE Services arrived onsite at 4:30 am and set up a hospitality table, where our team distributed hygiene products, lanterns, coffee, muffins, donuts, water, and Gatorade. We assisted residents with cleaning up their belongings and completed paperwork for shelter entries. 
  • Hawaiʻi Police Department and the County of Hawaiʻi Department of Parks and Recreation arrived at about 5:00 am and began their enforcement efforts. They were patient, served with respect and compassion, and gave people time and space to pack up. No dump truck was present, and the County Parks staff assisted with packing and loading people’s belongings. 
  • 808Homeless Task Force was also onsite.


How many people were displaced? Where are they now? Were enough shelter beds available?

  • Between Wednesday and Thursday, we encountered 16 people living at the camp. 
  • Before we arrived at the encampment site, we confirmed availability at our 7 seven shelter facilities in Hilo, Pahoa, and Kona. Of the 160 shelter beds we manage, just five (5) beds were available. All available beds were located in Hilo.
  • Yesterday morning, when we arrived, 11 of the 16 people were there. 
    • Four (4) individuals relocated on their own and were not onsite yesterday
    • Three (3) individuals moved into shelters, 2 in Hilo and 1 in Kona.
    • One (1) individual was referred to a Care Hawaiʻi Stabilization bed and is pending placement.
    • Eight (8)  individuals declined shelter because there were not enough beds in Kona, and they did not want to relocate to Hilo. All are interested in shelter and receive our team’s case management and outreach services.


What happened to the belongings of the people displaced by the sweep?

  • Most people took as many of their belongings as they could carry, and we assisted with transporting the belongings of some of the people entering our shelters.  Parks and Recreation offered to store items, and one individual accepted. The items remaining at the site of the sweep were discarded.


How is HOPE Services using homeless programs funding from Hawaiʻi County?

  • HOPE Services has used this funding for emergency shelter, medical respite, permanent supportive housing, master leasing, psychiatric street medicine, and behavioral health case management programs. These services can be life-changing for people experiencing homelessness and improve health, comfort, and happiness standards for local families, businesses, and visitors. 


Why does homelessness persist?

  • More people are falling into homelessness each month, and at a higher rate than people moving into housing.
  • Housing is expensive and out of reach for many of our neighbors.
    • In 2019, the fair market rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in Hawaiʻi County was already unaffordable at $1,346, with minimum wage at $10.10 per hour. In 2023, that apartment rose by a staggering 41% to $1,901, while the minimum wage rose only 19% to $12/hr. 
  • West Hawaiʻi Emergency Housing Program is the only emergency homeless shelter in West Hawaiʻi, offering 31 beds for single men and women. 


What are the impacts of an enforcement initiative on HOPEʻs work and our community?

  • HOPE Services does not support homeless encampment enforcement. It puts people in imminent danger because it separates them from the safety of their community. 
  • Sweeps are breaking connections between clients and service providers. Losing touch with a service provider can mean missing critical doses of medication, medical appointments, and housing opportunities. It is difficult for service providers to locate displaced people, especially if they do not have a working phone, as is often the case.
  • When our Outreach team diverts their attention to support those displaced by a sweep, it means canceling appointments with other clients.


What are the next steps HOPE Services is taking to continue improving our community’s health?

  • We seek a licensed therapist to join our team as we increase our behavioral healthcare capacity. Go to to learn more. Join our team!
  • For people unaware they are a danger to themselves and others but need to access treatment, we are launching a new program called Assisted Community Treatment (ACT). This will allow mental health providers to provide care to people incapable of making informed decisions about their care and well-being.
  • An Integrated Care Hub (ICH) serves as a place for rest, recovery, and connection to community resources for houseless patients with acute medical conditions. In partnership with Hilo Medical Center and County and State agencies, we anticipate starting this new program in May 2024, offering an additional eight beds for stabilization.


How can the community help our neighbors experiencing homelessness?


  • We invite you to come get to know what we do. Be a volunteer, or better yet, apply for one of our job openings available today! We currently have 17 job openings across the island. We offer a pay differential for jobs based in West Hawaiʻi to offset the higher cost of living. Visit us at to learn more. Apply online at


HOPE Services Hawaiʻi is Hawaiʻi Islandʻs largest homeless services provider, with a mission to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring. HOPE manages seven shelters in Hilo, Pahoa, and Kailua-Kona with 168 shelter beds 24 hours, 7 days a week. HOPE also offers clinical programs and permanent affordable housing. If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness, call the HOPE Helpline at 808-935-3050, Monday-Friday, 8:30am-4:00pm, or email us at