In Honolulu: Free Resources for the Squatter, Gardener, and Pedestrian

First Published August 16, 2015
Updated May 18, 2020

Here are some examples in Honolulu of recent years where squatter, gardener, and pedestrian, make ­­use of resources, but they do not want you to know about it. They want to keep it that way, mainly because the rest of us are not indeed nor vaguely interested, and because the resources are not glamorous.

How Squatters Live and Think

Take, for example, the squatter who makes the most out of his resources:

Resembling some third world squatter city, squatting instead is happening in industrialized Honolulu, in places like on Ilalo and Ohe Street near Kaka’ako Waterfront Park. At that general location, there is a sign that says, “This is our home, and we are not leaving.” Around the same area, another man had a dog that guarded his tent. While another took up the space of two blue tarp tents, another had car seats in his home, while still another had a forklift pallet that surrounded his home.

Then, one begins to think: the number of homeless could grow exponentially. Anywhere, especially an area next to a chain-link fence at any park could give people ideas about where to squat. 

Add to that, for some people, like the homeless, there is little difference between a blue tarp tent next to a chain-link fence and a convenient park with lots of overhead shade, such as River Street and A’ala Park, as both tent and tree can offer enough overhead shelter.

The River Street Power Wash

So, it is no surprise that the corner of River and Hotel Street was recently power washed. Even though many places where the homeless stay for a long time could get “dirty” again shortly after that, at least loiterers there get a clean street for the time being. The power washing also shows how well used an area is, a place that has shade trees along water, and how trees and bodies of water are so important, for the homeless or non-homeless.  

One Lock Versus 100: Security

For those with more permanent shelter, the need to be near soil, water, plants, and trees is completely vital, and people want to do this in town, even if they live in a high-rise building or an apartment that doesn’t allow people to touch the soil. Where one can grow anything from dragon fruit to an ornamental shrub, ten Community Gardens exist in the City and County of Honolulu. To get a plot of land to tend a garden and touch the soil, you can go on a waiting list as there is a process to get into the Community Gardens, as they have their differences. 

For example, at the Ala Wai Community Garden, most gardeners lock their plots or gardens, versus Foster Community Garden, which closes their parking lot at night so no one can get access to any plots or gardens at that time. Remember, the gardens should be free. You, as a resident, have to sign up.  

The Little Known and Used Pedestrian Bridge

Another free thing, and if you are physically able, is to walk around, as there are many pedestrian short cuts in Honolulu. Indeed, those that are in an automobile could not use because they would need to circle in town and then find parking, which pedestrians do not need to do. So, I discovered many places which are easier to get to by foot than by car. 

For example, there is a pedestrian bridge that connects Dole Street in Mānoa to Bingham Street in Mō’ili’ili. By foot, one can go from Dole Street to Isenberg Street in a matter of minutes. At the same time, that bridge presents an unnerving experience. Its concrete slab feels too thin, and the railings feel too low. Its walkway is a measly four-foot-wide, and the cars on the H-1 Interstate freeway rush by underneath, as one crosses the bridge. Note: there is usually interesting pedestrian bridges that go over the Interstate. 

The Secret Resources Stays Secret

The travels on foot, as evidenced via my blogs and videos, is my secret way to travel. Besides, when one passes through in an automobile at 25 miles per hour, one can easily miss the “secret spots.” Regardless, maybe they should remain that way, for the benefit of the squatter, the community gardener, and the pedestrian.


The above was a report published on August 16, 2015. Rumors circulate. Change the names of the streets, and the same homeless situation happens somewhere else in Honolulu.


Emy Louie is a “kama’aina/haole” (native/non-native person) who adventures to places on Oahu, Hawai’i, where “kama’aina” do not usually go to, that tourists go to, and vice versa. She lived in Honolulu in the ’70s and ’80s and visits Honolulu annually.

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