It cost the state $516,000 to remove 180 homeless people, their belongings and trash from below the H-1 freeway viaduct last month in what Gov. David Ige described Tuesday as a “new approach” to addressing homeless encampments on state land.
“The cleanup of this airport viaduct area is complete,” Ige told reporters underneath the viaduct Tuesday. “It’s now safe and secure. … We have turned this corner. This is a very important milestone, we believe.”
The sweep was part of a larger approach the state is taking to knock down homeless encampments in places such as Nimitz Highway, Nimitz Highway medians and portions of the H-1 freeway while finding housing for the occupants, Ige said.
The area below the viaduct had been one of Hawaii’s biggest and most entrenched encampments, where occupants built elaborate structures below the freeway and even into the freeway’s concrete soffits that thousands of drivers travel over every day.
|BY THE NUMBERS:
Cost to sweep homeless encampments below the H-1 freeway viaduct from Oct. 23 to Friday
People estimated living in the viaduct when the Oct. 23 sweep began
Homeless people who moved from under the viaduct and into shelters
Dogs and cats, respectively, that had been living under the viaduct
Gallons of hazardous waste removed
Dumpsters needed to haul away 2,050 tons of trash
The sweep began Oct. 23 and ended Friday, when private cleanup crews pulled out three more abandoned cars, leaving two behind that still need to be hauled away.
In between, three fires broke out underneath the viaduct last week that knocked out service to T-Mobile, Spectrum and Hawaiian Telcom customers.
While the cause of the fires remains under investigation, Ige appeared ready to link them to human sources.
“Breaking the law and destroying public or private property will not be tolerated,” he said. “We are committed to keeping public spaces public.”
State transportation officials used to spend $250,000 to $300,000 every six months to deploy 50 state highway maintenance workers to spend one to two weeks clearing out the homeless encampments below the viaduct, only to see people and their belongings return every time.
But now the area has a new fence provided by the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation for a HART storage yard, security guards, sheriff’s deputy patrols and new motion detector cameras that are being installed, said Jade Butay, interim director of the state Department of Transportation.
Crews pulled out 110 gallons of hazardous waste; 70 cubic yards of personal belongings, or the equivalent of two 40-foot shipping containers; and 2,050 tons of rubbish, or enough trash to fill 216 dumpsters, said DOT spokesman Tim Sakahara.
Only 12 of the homeless occupants went into shelters, said Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator.
Uncounted others called family and friends and were picked up and taken away as sheriff’s deputies cleared out the viaduct, Morishige said.
Many others set up new encampments along a nearby bike path, mauka of the viaduct, that’s scheduled to be swept Dec. 4, Butay said.
At the same time, four animal organizations helped 110 dogs and 40 cats that had been living under the viaduct.
Asked about the possibility of homeless people setting up camp again underneath the viaduct, Ige said they will face increased security.
“We know that those chronically homeless who want to be on the streets will continue to do what they do to get back into state property,” he said. “But the enforcement activity will be ongoing. We definitely will be back sweeping. … What’s very different is that we will be going to enforce regularly.”