A program designed to keep hundreds of kids safe and off the streets isn’t happening because of ongoing problems at a Makiki recreation center.

The head of the program says reaching out to KHON2 is her last resort to save it.

Heidi Haliniak ran the Punchbowl Athletic Club at Stevenson Recreation Center. The program was affiliated with the Honolulu Police Department’s Police Athletics League.

It was forced to shut down after lights were removed from the center nearly a year ago for safety reasons.

“The field lighting fixtures near Stevenson Recreation Center were removed in March 2016 due to safety concerns that became apparent when one of the lights fell over,” said Jeanne Ishikawa, deputy director of the city Department of Parks and Recreation.

“Due to the safety hazards for my children (I could not hold the league this year),” Haliniak explained. “I need protection. The lights is what gives us a lot of help.”

We took a look at the lights and noticed orange cones were placed over the stumps with uncovered electrical wires underneath. A city spokesperson told us the wires were not live.

Since the lights were taken down, residents tell us they’ve seen a lot of unsafe, illegal activity at the park.

“It’s hard to see what a great place this was, come down in shambles,” said resident Dandi Holder. “As soon as the lights went out, there’s more illegal activity and more reason for people who should not be here to come around.”

“This is an outlet for kids,” Haliniak said. “There’s a lot of kids around here who don’t have anything. The parents can’t afford to put them in leagues or other clubs. We don’t charge a fee and we take everybody in the community. Now that I cannot offer them a safe haven, I closed my club because of this one reason which I think is unfair.”

Haliniak says she wants the lights reinstalled, but hasn’t had any luck.

“I have gone to many community board meetings, asked them for help. I had council members, asked them for help. Got no response, got no help done. Went to the school, asked the school for help. They can’t do nothing, they don’t have funds. Came here, asked the City and County for help, and same response,” she said.

“We’re not getting no response at all. If we were getting a response, something would have been done. Nothing has been done yet,” added Holder. “I want to see the kids to come back. I want to see lights on, drug activity done, kids all over. The sounds of screaming, yelling, basketballs bouncing, and games going.”

We made some calls, and found out the Department of Education owns the recreation center, but the city maintains it.

The Department of Parks and Recreation said: “A replacement project is necessary to reinstall those lights. The Department of Parks and Recreation repairs and maintains the lights under an agreement with the DOE, but replacing the lights is the responsibility of the DOE.”

A spokesperson for the Hawaii Department of Education sent over the statement: “HIDOE is looking into replacing the affected lighting as an upcoming Repair & Maintenance project, but a timetable is yet to be determined. Safety on school campuses is a priority even after school hours and on weekends. Anyone observing criminal or suspicious behavior after hours on campuses are asked to report it to police.”