Mother Waldron Park closure prompts homeless to return to Kakaako waterfront
January 16, 2018 | 80° | Check Traffic

Hawaii News

Mother Waldron Park closure prompts homeless to return to Kakaako waterfront

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    James Shiraishi holds his dog, Gypsy Girl, while taking a walk in park. He has been homeless but is now living in senior housing nearby. He has seen the homeless using the lawn as a bathroom but notes the restroom facilities are closed.

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The city planned to shut down Mother Waldron Neighborhood Park in Kakaako for a month beginning late Tuesday night, prompting some homeless people like Al Saenz to try to sneak back into the shuttered Kakaako Waterfront Park where he started from.

“Back and forth, back and forth,” Saenz, 49, said Tuesday. “We’ll just play their game.”

Mother Waldron’s homeless population spiked to about 50 people and dozens of tents and tarps last month when state officials closed nearby Kakaako Waterfront Park and its sister parks following an estimated $500,000 worth of damage allegedly caused by homeless people, who broke into light poles and water fountains to get water and to power their electronic devices.

GET INVOLVED

To report homeless activity such as blocking city sidewalks, call the city Department of Facility Maintenance at 768-4381.

Kakaako Gateway Parks and Kakaako Waterfront Park are now scheduled to reopen Monday.

“Obviously, we’re going to enforce the park closure rules once the park reopens,” said Garett Kamemoto, interim executive director of the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which oversees the Kakaako parks for the state. “So everybody’s got to be out at 10 at night.”

Block by Block security, which has a $300,000 annual contract with the HCDA, will continue to provide security “every single night,” Kamemoto said.

Derek Stabilio, also 49, dipped bread into a cold can of cream of mushroom soup at Mother Waldron Park on Monday morning and said the park closures by city and state officials “are not doing anything — except we gotta look for another place to sleep.”

Since Dec. 22, Honolulu police have issued two citations for people having illegal tents in Mother Waldron Park, along with 11 warnings, said Nathan Serota, spokesman for the city Department of Parks and Recreation.

Before Dec. 22, officers issued five citations for tent violations, six for park closure hour violations and two for shopping carts, Serota said.

On Monday, crews installed orange nets designed to keep people out of Mother Waldron Park.

By noon someone had cut two sections of the netting, said Jeanne Ishikawa, deputy director of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

“And that’s after just a few hours,” she said.

Neighbor James Shiraishi, 73, has some sympathy for Oahu’s homeless.

Shiraishi said he lived out of his van in the 1990s because of an addiction to crystal methamphetamine.

But on Monday, with a permanent place to live nearby, Shiraishi trained his 5-month-old puppy, Gypsy Girl, in Mother Waldron Park and said sometimes he “feels unsafe” because of the homeless occupants.

“I’ve seen fistfights, I’ve seen guys defecating behind the bathroom, I’ve seen women peeing,” Shiraishi said. “I feel threatened sometimes.”

While Mother Waldron Park is closed until 5 a.m. Feb. 2, crews are scheduled to make repairs to electrical wiring in the bathrooms that have been broken into, and will work on landscaping and irrigation and test a new product that’s designed to allow for the easy removal of graffiti.

Ishikawa had no immediate estimate for the cost of repairs.

As for homeless people living in public spaces, Ishikawa said, “We all know this is an ongoing issue. It’s a bigger community issue than just our parks department.”

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