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Campus & Community

Family of Laie homeless man urges people to keep their distance, not make him too comfortable he won’t get the help he needs

Graphic of a man silhouetted in black against a green background with a palm tree and a sidewalk running behind the figure.

Ricky, a man who has been sleeping on the sidewalk of Kulanui Street in Laie, has been around for years, said his family, although students said they only began noticing him last semester. He slept at a bus stop in Laie for a few weeks then moved to the wall outside of the BYU–Hawaii campus. Later, when Ricky was banned from the campus, he moved to Kulanui Street where he currently stays.

Ricky’s family, who wishes to remain anonymous, said they have lived in Laie for generations. The family said they have tried to take care of Ricky, but he is not safe. The family said he has mental health and medical issues. “Please stay away from him,” a family member pleaded, “I would hate for somebody to get hurt.”

His family also said the police are called often but can’t do much because of his mental illness. Ricky's family said they are frustrated because even though the police recently arrested him and took him to the hospital for some treatment, he is back living on the sidewalk.

Kady Hawkins, a senior studying intercultural peacebuilding, said she was concerned about Ricky. “I asked around in the campus community, and nobody has any idea what his situation is. Nobody knows if he’s being taken care of. I worry and I wonder.”

Ricky’s family expressed gratitude for the kindness people in the community have shown him. They said they notice when people bring him food or bedding, but said they feel that isn’t best for them or for Ricky. “He is starting to get more comfortable,” they said and they don’t want him to stay living on the street. The family said Ricky has lodging and medications for his illnesses but refuses them.

Brett Merrill, a clinical and disability counselor at BYUH Counseling & Disability Services, said the best way for students to show love while still staying safe is through education. “When we lack education, we tend to be more afraid and tend to demonize people. So by learning and understanding, we can have more love for someone while still staying safe,” Merrill said.

A family member said, “We feel really bad for him and want to help, but he’s physically abusive. It’s just getting worse because he’s off his meds. It just hurts us to see him like that, but we’re just worried about our safety at this point.”

Merrill compassionately acknowledged the tough situation the family is experiencing, saying “that sounds awful that that’s their reality.”

Hawkins expressed feeling a variety of emotions when she saw Ricky. “I felt sad. I think I felt mostly ashamed and guilty,” she said. Hawkins added seeing students, who are visitors to the island, worry about finding housing on Facebook was a stark contrast to seeing a local man sleeping on the sidewalk. “It felt so cruel and ironic,” she said.

Ricky’s family shared he has been involved with drugs since a young age. Merrill explained drug use can affect the brain and help induce some mental health issues. But he added those with mental health problems may use drugs as a way to cope with their issues.