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City hauls away last of debris from homeless encampment

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A city crew loaded scrap lumber into a garbage truck Tuesday during a sweep of the homeless encampment on Ohe Street in Kakaako.

The city finally cleared out the last of the Kakaako homeless encampment Wednesday after a five-day delay.

City officials had hoped to have the encampment around the University of Hawaii medical school and Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center dismantled and cleaned up by Friday. But Ohe Street, the densest area of the encampment, had more discarded debris and trash than expected.

A special crew from the city Department of Facility Maintenance delayed returning to finish the job on Monday because homeless shelters that could have accommodated the remaining homeless people were closed for Columbus Day.

The crew ended up needing Tuesday to remove the encampment of the last two dozen homeless people on Ohe Street. Crew members continued taking away debris Wednesday.

The methodical cleanup project began Sept. 8.

During a census conducted the week of Aug. 3, 293 people were counted living in wood-reinforced tents and tarps that had become a health and safety problem as police, fire and ambulance calls to the encampment spiked.

On June 29, state Rep. Tom Brower (D, Wai­kiki- Ala Moana-Kakaako) was attacked while taking pictures of the encampment.

Homeless people had been living in the area for years but the size of the encampment quickly grew over the last year as the city enforced two laws: the stored property ordinance and sidewalk nuisance ordinance, which allow the city to remove items from sidewalks and other public places.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii had sued to stop the Kakaako sweeps, arguing that the city was removing people and items from the area improperly and in violation of the U.S. Constitution. But a motion for a temporary restraining order was dismissed.

A lawsuit is scheduled to be heard in federal court in December.

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