After spending the day picking up tons of discarded debris, a cleanup crew will return today for what the city hopes will be the last of the Kakaako homeless encampment.
The cleanup efforts started Sept. 8 on the edges of the encampment. But Thursday’s and today’s efforts were aimed at the final and densest portion of a homeless community that once included 293 people living in wood-reinforced tents and tarps.
“I’m going to hit the streets. I’ve got just a tent, a blanket and a change of clothes. They’re just kicking us to the curb.”
Now the question is where the remaining 100 or so homeless people will end up next.
The city brought in a bus to transport them to various island shelters, but it left with only a handful of passengers.
A few others walked over to the adjacent Next Step shelter in Kakaako.
But many more said they had no intention of moving into a shelter and instead would spend Thursday looking for a new place to sleep.
“I’m going to hit the streets,” said Skinny Moore, 60, as he dismantled his cardboard shelter on Ahui Street, just ahead of the city’s cleanup crew and garbage truck. “I’ve got just a tent, a blanket and a change of clothes. They’re just kicking us to the curb.”
Moku Sato, 50, was busy clearing out his wooden structure on Olomehani Street and said, “I’m too old for the shelter. I’m up in the air right now.”
Sato folded up his tarps but left a nearly 20-foot wooden structure behind for the crew from the city Department of Facility Maintenance to dismantle.
Lei Pu‘u, 29, was rounding up her 19 dogs on Olomehani Street and said no shelter will take her animals.
So Pu‘u also was searching for a new place to sleep Thursday because “I won’t let them take my dogs.”
Daylin Rombawa, 27, had no animals, but also had no interest in a shelter.
Asked about his other options, he said, “I’m not sure.”
Also given notices to remove their belongings were those from the Kakaako encampment who had already migrated next door to state-owned land at Kewalo Basin Park. They made up an additional 25 or so homeless people also looking for a new place to sleep.
Jun Yang, executive director of the city Office of Housing, said, “People are a little disgruntled. That’s understandable.”
One tent went up in flames on Olomehani Street on Thursday morning and was extinguished by Honolulu firefighters. Honolulu police also responded to a couple of disputes between homeless people, said Ross Sasamura, who is in charge of the cleanup as the city’s director and chief engineer of the Department of Facility Maintenance.
On Thursday the cleanup crew methodically worked its way toward Diamond Head on Ilalo Street and spent the rest of the day moving clockwise down Ahui Street and onto Olomehani Street toward Ohe Street, where state Rep. Tom Brower (D, Waikiki-Ala Moana-Kakaako) was attacked while photographing the encampment June 29.
The crew was only midway down Olomehani Street by late Thursday afternoon, and Sasamura said they would go at it until sundown and return at 7:30 this morning.
One garbage truck had already dumped its load of three tons of debris and returned, while a second garbage truck was busily being loaded.
In the middle of Olomehani Street sat a portable hospital toilet full of urine and feces that workers had removed from an encampment.
The cleanup crew was escorted by a contingent of plainclothes Honolulu police officers and state sheriff’s deputies. All planned to return today to clear out Ohe Street all the way back up to Ilalo Street.
While the city is responsible for collecting debris left behind on city sidewalks, private landowners such as the Office of Hawaiian Affairs were left with bags of garbage and personal items such as those that had been thrown over a fence and onto OHA’s “piano lot” property bordered by Ilalo, Ahui, Olomehani and Ohe streets.
Peter Gomez, commercial accounts manager for Pacific Facility Services, spent much of this week in the piano lot picking up discarded hypodermic needles, drug paraphernalia and bottles filled with human urine.
“There’s a lot of rubbish, man,” Gomez said, “just a lot of stuff you don’t want to see.”