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Mayor Wright Homes: Public Housing Hell

Gang activity, rat infestations, deteriorating walls and ceilings, and, until this June, no hot, running water. For the approximately 1,100 tenants of Mayor Wright Homes, this is life. Years of neglect forced residents to sue the state. Lawyers want to settle the case this year to finally reverse these deplorable conditions. But for these residents, positive change has been years in the making.


Published:

(page 4 of 6)


The Wong household is always bustling with Wong’s foster children and her grandchildren. Her adult children are now her caretakers.

Mayor Wright Homes used to be part of HPD’s Weed and Seed program, but the department ended the complex’s program in 2003. Since then, gang presence—including the Bloods—has increased. It’s common to see adults and teenagers, mostly men, drinking and loitering outside the buildings at night and dealing and/or doing drugs. But they don’t stop there: Gangs vandalize homes and cars, shattering windows with rocks, bats and BB guns. Residents are assaulted with these same weapons or punched and kicked. Assailants are rarely arrested.

“We’ve had assaults on tenants and it’s so ridiculous, because no one seems to care from the Public Housing Authority,” says Kolio. “These assaults are by people that don’t reside there, so you can’t evict nobody.” Kolio himself has restraining orders on a handful of men. He’s been threatened and has had his windows smashed. “It was early morning, maybe 2 a.m., I’m dead asleep, all I hear is rocks flying through, my wife is screaming, she’s terrified. I came outside, there’s no suspects, they’re long gone.”

Kolio thinks he was targeted because he’s part of the citizen’s patrol and is vigilant in calling the cops, unlike some other residents, who are afraid. Gangs also target many of their victims because of their ethnicity, or as retaliation. Virtually every adult resident has experienced vandalism and some form of assault, or has witnessed it. A tenant, who didn’t want to be named, said a gang member broke his brother’s jaw, and, in the past two months, he’s had his own windows smashed twice. Wong, too, says she sees gangs loitering outside on a nightly basis.

“Security guards are always on the property, because they’re getting paid with taxpayer dollars, but, if you ask me, what’s the results? Nothing. The gangs continue to control the evenings, the property itself,” says Kolio.

During the day, only one HPHA-contracted guard is on duty at Mayor Wright, and he or she stays at the front-entrance guard shack, essentially giving criminals free reign everywhere else. In two shifts, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., two guards roam the property, but aren’t much of a deterrent. Another Mayor Wright resident, who wanted to remain anonymous, says gang members terrorize him as he’s walking to his building after his graveyard shift.

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Honolulu Magazine January 2018
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