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Kokua Line

No easy solution to homeless turning public site into lavatory

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Question: We state employees have been wading through the waste left by homeless people who have appropriated the front of the Keoni Ana Building nights and weekends as their lavatory and sleeping quarters for several months. Complaints have not remedied the situation. Is there an agency that oversees the risk to public health (because this most definitely is) or an agency that will respond to referrals for civil commitment to the State Hospital (because anyone that soils themselves as part of their daily routine is not mentally well)?

Answer: Unfortunately, what’s happening at your building, at 1177 Alakea St., is not isolated. It is happening at other state buildings and throughout the community.

In the case of Keoni Ana, "we ask the sheriffs to remove the homeless and the area stays clear for a while," said Russ Saito, state comptroller and head of the Department of Accounting and General Services. "When the people return, we ask the Sheriff’s Office for help and they respond again."

But it’s an apparent endless cycle.

"Because the Sheriff’s Office is busy with their assigned responsibilities, keeping our areas clear of homeless individuals is a challenge," Saito said. "We would like to hire special-duty officers to patrol areas where most of the problems occur during evening hours, but this costs money, which we don’t have."

He said efforts to monitor the buildings, and Keoni Ana specifically, will continue, and the Department of Health will be consulted for advice on the health issues.

But it is not a simple matter to commit someone for apparent mental health problems.

The long-term solution, Saito said, rests with the state, county, and private and charitable organizations that deal with homeless people and affordable housing programs.

"Efforts are ongoing but the problem will not be solved overnight," he said. "All parties need to keep at it and need to wrestle with the idea that by choice or other circumstances the homeless population may never be zero."

Question: We live in Kaneohe at the top of a subdivision at the base of the Koolaus. There is a water easement on our property. When the water runs, a strong stream enters a four-foot-diameter pipe that takes the water out to sea. It used to run only after heavy rains. For the past four to five months, it suddenly runs hard, as if someone opened a valve and released water, for several hours. Where does this water come from since it has been raining very little?

Answer: The water is coming from the Board of Water Supply’s "Haiku 500" No. 2 Reservoir above your subdivision.

The problem is that telecommunication lines to the reservoir’s automatic overflow control valves recently were vandalized, said Board of Water Supply spokeswoman Tracy Burgo. Agency workers have to manually operate the valves until they can be repaired and it is this manual operation that results in periodic overflows, Burgo said.

Until repairs can be completed, she said the water agency will monitor the temporary overflows.

Mahalo and Auwe

Mahalo to the ambulance crew who picked me up at Sand Island on Saturday, Aug. 14. A black Mustang was tailgating us, so the female ambulance driver stopped, got out and told the tailgater to stop doing that because of safety concerns. I appreciate the help of the ambulance crew. Auwe to the driver of the Mustang — drivers like that need to have their license taken away. — Gary

Write to "Kokua Line" at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail


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