• Tuesday, September 25, 2018
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Kakaako Waterfront Park to close indefinitely as homeless population grows


    A dog watches over a tent near the ocean seawall at Kakaako Waterfront Park today.


    A biker goes past a courtyard overrun by tents at Kakaako Waterfront Park today.


    Officials put up signs saying Kakaako Waterfront Park will be temporarily closed “for safety reasons”. Tents and dead grass are seen today at the park near Ahui Street.


Kakaako Waterfront Park will be closed to the public indefinitely — starting at 10 p.m. Sunday — because park officials say they can no longer ensure the safety of park users following a recent series of dog bites, fires and vandalism attributed to an estimated 180 homeless people living along the Kakaako shoreline.

There is no timetable for when the park will reopen.

“It’s reached a point where we just can’t manage it,” Jesse Souki, the executive director of the Hawaii Community Development Authority which manages the state park, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser today. “It’s not easy to say it, but I want the park to be safe. Right now, with dog attacks and exposed wires and broken plumbing, it’s just not safe. We need to shut it down and take a pause.”

A complete assessment of the damage needs to be conducted once state sheriff’s deputies sweep the estimated 120 hardened encampments Sunday night, Souki said. But he’s estimating that the cost of repairs could reach $500,000.

“They’ve broken into and exposed wires on about 30 poles,” Souki said. “They’re breaking the metal plates that cover the wiring and splicing extension chords to run TVs and such things in their tents. We also have broken pipes with water leaking everywhere. The number of tents is killing the grass. We’ve had a couple of dog attacks and a couple of recent fires. It’s reached a point where we just can’t manage it.”

The resurgence of an estimated 180 homeless people in 120 reinforced encampments in the park underscores the challenges of state and county officials to reduce the country’s highest per capita rate of homelessness — and represents a specific setback for Kakaako Waterfront Park.

In the summer of 2015, more than 300 homeless people crowded into illegal encampments throughout the mauka areas of Kakaako Waterfront Park to create safety and sanitation problems that included an attack on state Rep. Tom Brower (D, Waikiki-Ala Moana-Kaka­ako).

Federal officials at the time called it one of the largest homeless encampments in the nation.

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