Homeless shuffle to avoid Kakaako park closures
May 26, 2018 | 81° | Check Traffic

Hawaii News

Homeless shuffle to avoid Kakaako park closures

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Homeless people with their tents and belongings settled into Gateway Park in Kakaako on Tuesday.

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Above, items belonging to the homeless took up space on a park picnic table and bench.

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More than a dozen homeless encampments returned to the mauka Kakaako Gateway Park as state and city officials continue to close and reopen parks overrun by homeless people in Kakaako.

Nearby Kakaako Waterfront Park, which reopened Monday, remained clear Tuesday afternoon, along with the makai Kakaako Gateway Park.

But half a dozen tents sprouted up in front of the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Museum, along with a bigger encampment in the mauka Gateway Park that runs along Ala Moana Boulevard.

Like others, Sonia Taglies, 32, told the Honolulu Star­-Advertiser on Tuesday that she has spent years being swept out of one Kakaako park after another.

She and Joe Kane, 46, slept around the mauka Kakaako Gateway Park on Monday night.

At lunchtime Tuesday a Hono­lulu police officer told them to move their tent off the city sidewalk. So they picked it up and walked it into the state-owned, mauka-side Kakaako Gateway Park.

Asked where they’ve been staying over the last several nights, Taglies said, “First Waterfront (Park), then Mother Waldron, now here.”

In October the Hawaii Community Development Authority began shutting down Kakaako Waterfront Park and its sister parks to repair damage blamed on an estimated 180 homeless people and their dogs.

About 50 homeless people then walked over to the city’s nearby Mother Waldron Neighborhood Park until city officials closed down Mother Waldron last week, forcing some of the homeless occupants to return to the state-owned Kakaako Gateway Park and its surrounding city streets.

“We’re working on a more coordinated plan with the city,” said Garett Kamemoto, interim executive director of the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which oversees the Kakaako parks for the state.

Kakaako Waterfront Park now has new signs that are designed to make it easier to enforce existing rules, such as bans on drying clothes and erecting tents.

“The new signs simplify the park rules and are designed to allow us to ask anyone who violates any of those rules to leave the park during the day,” Kamemoto said. “If our security witnesses a violation of the park rules, they can call the sheriff’s office, and the sheriff’s office will assist at that point.”

Steve Fairbanks, 48, said he and his homeless friends are being unfairly targeted.

Fairbanks said he wants to work but that his ID was stolen in September, and he has been working with the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii to get a new one so he can get housing and a job.

“Everyone here is good people,” Fairbanks said. “I don’t want to be looked down on, and I don’t want to be judged.”

He acknowledged asking people for money and said “it is the most demeaning thing that I’ve had to go through,” adding, “That doesn’t make me a dirtbag. We are people, too. We’re not discardable. We are human beings.”

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