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Wednesday, April 16, 2014         

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Crews clear Kakaako tents

Many homeless move elsewhere in the area, not into nearby shelters

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

POSTED:


State officials cleared lower Kakaako of dozens of encampments yesterday on the first day of a beautification project.

But while some of the between 70 and 100 homeless people who left the area the past two weeks relocated to nearby homeless shelters, most of them went elsewhere last night, including into the Kakaako business community several blocks mauka.

Today was the deadline imposed by the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which oversees Kakaako development, for the homeless to vacate the area makai of Ala Moana Boulevard and between Forrest Avenue and Ala Moana Beach Park.

About 70 state and city workers and volunteers were joined by eight state sheriffs as they began making their way down Ilalo Street at 9 a.m. yesterday, removing tents, trash and other items.

Only about two dozen homeless people remained.

"We've come three consecutive weeks to warn them, so they had a lot of notice," said Anthony Ching, HCDA director.

Ching said he knows he has no legal authority to kick the homeless off the sidewalks and doesn't even want to kick them out, but wants to ensure his agency can do its job of maintaining the area. He said that meant no camping on grass, and no tents or other structures anywhere.

"As long as they don't have structures," Ching said, adding that "I'm not fooling myself into thinking that (chronic homeless in the area) are leaving."

Marc Alexander, the state's homeless coordinator, said there's no hard count of where the people went.

"I think some have gone to some of the shelters, and a number of them have just found other places in the area to camp out at, quite frankly," he said.

"Unfortunately, while there is space in the shelters, and there are available programs to help people, some for various reasons do not want to avail themselves to those opportunities and resources," he said.

New tents have risen in recent days along shaded areas around Mother Waldron Park, three blocks mauka of Ala Moana Boulevard and in the heart of the Kakaako business district.

But 25 people have moved into the Next Step Shelter, run by the nonprofit Hawaii Helping the Hungry Have Hope, or H5.

"People have been trickling in," said Utu Langi, H5 executive director. The shelter has room for single people and couples but is making room to accommodate more families.

One family and one couple sought shelter yesterday, while two other families moved into Next Step and a new shelter nearby composed of used buses.

While several homeless people said they did not have the cash to afford Next Step, Langi said new residents get at least the first month free.

At midmorning yesterday the last of the homeless in Kakaako Makai were scrambling.

Robert Allgood, 50, said no one told him the crew was coming yesterday. "We don't know what to do," he said. "I'm disabled, and I really can't be running around."

Someone stole Allgood's backpack containing needed medicines last week. As a reporter and photographer approached yesterday, his girlfriend ran off.

Allgood began throwing items away. His tent and a case of bottled soda were among the things he tucked carefully away in a shopping cart.

He said he is thinking of going to a free shelter in Waipahu but didn't want to leave his belongings behind. More important, he didn't want to leave behind his girlfriend, a Korean national who speaks little English. He helped her get temporary housing at Next Step Shelter near their encampment near the of Ilalo and Keawe streets.

"I don't want to lose her because of this," Allgood said. "She's more important to me than all this crap."

Several blocks away, Danne Ye, 52, was going through mounds of debris looking for recyclable containers and other things that might be salvageable.

"This is senseless cruelty," Ye said about the pressure being put on him to move right away. "I'm sick of this crap."

The self-described "emperor of China," Ye said he preferred not to go to a shelter. He said he has enough money saved up to buy airfare to China.

Sherri Watson, 43, said she and husband Philip, 35, were talked into going to Next Step by Langi.

Watson said she's concerned about how they will do in a structured environment of Next Step, where occupants must abide by restrictions including being barred from the premises during daylight hours, no pets and curfew time. "I'll be fine ... but it's hard for him to follow rules."

Watson said recent arrivals from the mainland spurred the state into action. They would defecate and urinate on the sidewalks and cause a mess.

Ching said a health hazard was being created.

 






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