As city crews began clearing about 20 vacated homeless encampments at Keaau Beach Park on the Waianae Coast yesterday morning, state officials distributed fliers to people camping along the sidewalks and parks in lower Kakaako that they must remove their tents and other structures beginning Wednesday.
At Keaau Beach, near Makaha, there was only one holdout camper at the beach park when police officers arrived at 6 a.m. That man left peacefully when asked to leave, police Sgt. Lloyd Keliinui said.
The city began telling Keaau campers about eight weeks ago they would have to vacate the beach. At their peak in October, about 200 homeless people were living at Keaau, including 70 children, police said. They had about 30 pets.
About 20 people left on Tuesday, Keliinui said.
Most have moved into homeless shelters or are staying with family and friends, Keliinui said. About a third, however, have set up camp along an undeveloped stretch of city-owned coastline directly northwest of Keaau that police and the homeless call "The Bush," he said. "They’re the hard-headed ones," he said.
The Star-Advertiser approached several newly arrived campers in The Bush but all declined to comment.
Jamie Calarruda, whose family is staying on the beach on the north side of The Bush, said she’s seen a growing number of homeless people moving into the area over the past several years as the city has made sweeps of beach parks along the Waianae Coast.
"It’s unfair, I don’t know where else these people are going to go," Calarruda said.
City officials said Tuesday that they counted 236 openings at homeless shelters on Oahu.
But Calarruda said many homeless people do not want to abide by a shelter’s rules.
Keaau’s closure is tied to a Waianae Coast-wide beautification effort and is the last city beach park along the coast to be cleared of homeless campers. Former Mayor Mufi Hannemann began the sweeps in 2005.
Crews yesterday cleared several tons of tents, broken furniture and smaller debris ranging from toys to plastic bottles.
City Deputy Parks Director Al Tufono said it will take about three weeks to clean, repair and renovate broken fixtures, bathrooms and picnic tables. Crews will also do some landscaping
After Keaau Beach Park is reopened, there will be about 25 campsites for camping by permit only, with a three-night limit.
In Kakaako, Hawaii Community Development Authority Executive Director Anthony Ching and state Homeless Coordinator Marc Alexander led a group of people who distributed fliers to the 75 to 100 homeless people who have settled there. Their message: Remove tents and other structures by next Wednesday.
While they will be allowed to continue living along the sidewalks, they will be evicted from private property belonging to the state or Kamehameha Schools, the largest private landowner in the area, Ching said.
City and HCDA laws prohibit unpermitted structures along the roadway, including the sidewalks, he said. Ching said the homeless will be told on Tuesday exactly when enforcement actions will begin.