Police and volunteer crews this morning cleared out an entrenched homeless encampment across the street from the Hawaii Convention Center, which will be a key gathering site for next week’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
The campers were cleared from a site near the former Hard Rock Cafe restaurant, across Kalakaua Avenue from the convention Center.
City and state officials have been working with homeless service providers for weeks to notify homeless people that landowner PBS Hawaii wanted to clean up its 28,000 square-foot parcel where a recycling business currently operates, said Leslie Wilcox, president and CEO of PBS Hawaii.
PBS Hawaii originally had hoped to have the homeless people relocated weeks and months ago and today’s operation had nothing to do with next week’s APEC conference, Wilcox said.
"We really wanted to get this done much earlier and our original target date was months ago," Wilcox said. " … It’s not a place to live. It’s a business zone and we want to take care of business as well as be compassionate. It was the rapidly growing size of that encampment and sanitation issues that bothered neighbors. That’s why we’ve been working with representatives from the state, city, social service agencies and the police."
Homeless volunteers from the Institute of Human Services’ Civic Engagement Program this morning used IHS’ flat bed truck to help cart away homeless people’s belongings, IHS spokeswoman Kate Record said.
IHS this morning has 40 openings in its men’s shelter and 10 in its women’s shelter but it’s unknown how may of the homeless people cleared from the PBS Hawaii site will take advantage of the openings, said Connie Mitchell, IHS’ executive director.
IHS is frequently being contacted by private landowners who want help relocating homeless people camping on their properties, Mitchell said.
"A lot of landowners are hesitant to make moves because they really are concerned about the people who are living there," she said. "They genuinely want to help. They don’t want to be ousting the homeless."
State Rep. Tom Brower, (D, Waikiki, Ala Moana), saw about 10 homeless people removed from the PBS Hawaii location this morning.
This summer Brower heard testimony from city and state officials that neither the state nor city conduct homeless "sweeps" and that no homeless clean-up operations were planned because of APEC.
"Government in good conscience has to believe it doesn’t do sweeps," Brower said. "It doesn’t matter to me. What is important is that we have a clear policy. And the right thing to do is to have clean-ups on a regular basis. We have to protect the streets, the parks and the beaches."