City crews will move to clear the homeless from the sidewalks in the densest — and last — section of Kakaako over two days next week.
The sweeps will be held starting 7:30 a.m. Thursday and Friday, Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s office said Friday afternoon.
A minimum of 100 people, including children, are living on the sidewalks in the vicinity of the Children’s Discovery Center. Fliers giving notice of the actions were distributed throughout the encampment Friday.
The city Department of Facility Maintenance has swept homeless campers from sidewalks along seven blocks mauka of Ilalo Street since the enforcement of the stored property and sidewalk nuisance ordinances began Sept. 8.
While some, as state and city officials had hoped, have moved into shelters in Honolulu and Waipahu, many others have moved onto sidewalks in other areas or into the most populated area bordered by Ilalo, Ohe, Olomehani and Ahui streets, which is being targeted next week.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii has sued the city to stop the Kakaako sweeps, arguing that the city is removing people and items from the area improperly and in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
The ACLU’s motion for a temporary restraining order to stop the actions was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor last week. Trial is scheduled for December.
Daniel Gluck, ACLU of Hawaii legal director, said he’s not sure where the multitudes of homeless people remaining in Kakaako will suddenly be able to find shelter.
“The city said of the sweeps in Kakaako that it was only going to sweep those individuals for whom it had designated shelter space, and there are hundreds of people on the makai side of Ilalo and through Ohe Street,” Gluck said. “And we know that the number of people just in the encampment far exceeds the number of shelter beds on the entire island. So I honestly don’t know where the city expects these people to go.”
City attorneys have warned that sidewalk enforcement actions have best been able to withstand constitutional challenges when there is available shelter space.
City and state officials disputed Gluck’s claims, adding that they are working closely with shelters and service providers to ensure there is adequate shelter space before each block is cleared.
Scott Morishige, state homeless services coordinator, said the shelter providers have been monitoring the number of spaces available.
“Based on the most recent numbers I have seen, I do believe that we have the shelter space available to accommodate those numbers,” Morishige said.
But people camped along Ohe Street on Friday night said they had no plans.
A 39-year-old man who identified himself as “Chevo” said he and three daughters, ages 20, 18 and 8, relocated to the area because they were told by law enforcement that they would not be bothered.
His family has used up two years of eligibility at the nearby Next Step Shelter and cannot go back there, he said.
He pointed to an empty warehouse on government property on the makai side of Olomehani Street and said he’s suggested that the facility be made available to the homeless. “Then this place wouldn’t have to be here,” he said, nodding to the row of tents to either side of him.
Catherine Laumea, who is six months pregnant with her first child, said she also doesn’t know where her boyfriend, parents and other family members will go when they are forced to leave next week.
She had one guess. “Everybody here just going follow everybody else,” she said.
The city cleared three blocks on the mauka side of Ilalo Street this past week, removing an estimated 10 tons of trash.