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Kakaako camps get 3-week pass

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Scott Morishige
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Some 130 people living in three oceanside homeless encampments that grew in size after the city cleared out the adjacent Kakaako makai encampment have at least three more weeks before state sheriff’s deputies push them somewhere else.

The homeless people living illegally in Kewalo Basin Park, at Point Panic and in Kakaako Waterfront Park were given notice Monday that they have until at least Nov. 12 — and maybe later — before deputies begin enforcing bans on overnight park use.

The date of the first sweep could get pushed back depending on how successful social service providers are in getting the homeless into shelters or permanent housing — and based on how many shelter beds are available by Nov. 12, said Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator.

The advance warning and outreach by social service workers follows the same template the city used when it spent seven weeks cleaning out the larger, nearby encampment that wound around the University of Hawaii’s medical school and Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center following a spike in police, ambulance and fire calls to the encampment.

During a census conducted the week of Aug. 3, the Kakaako makai encampment held 293 people, or more than twice as many people currently living along the Kakaako shoreline.

The three encampments have been around for years. But they grew rapidly on state land owned by the Hawaii Community Development Authority as the city finished cleaning out the last of the Kakaako makai encampment on Oct. 14.

Gov. David Ige toured the growing homeless encampments on Friday and said they’re not nearly as dense as the last section of Ohe Street that the city just cleaned out.

But Ige added, “We do know we want to respond quickly. … The homeless really do migrate to areas where there is no enforcement.”

Since Oct. 16, 11 homeless people in the area have moved into homeless shelters or permanent housing, Ige’s office said.

“However, despite multiple efforts, many individuals decline help,” Ige’s office said in a statement Monday.

So Ige signed a supplemental proclamation designed to help 1,000 homeless people across the islands.

The proclamation allows $1.3 million to be distributed statewide that will help provide “Housing First” services to put homeless people into homes accompanied by so-called “wraparound” case management to help with problems that could include drug and alcohol abuse and mental health issues.

Ige’s proclamation includes an additional $312,500 for Housing First services for Oahu and $250,000 for the neighbor islands.

The supplemental proclamation also includes $292,900 for Oahu and $207,100 for the neighbor islands to provide first month’s rent, security deposits and case management for homeless families with minor children.

Plus, $150,000 for Oahu and $150,000 for the neighbor islands will go for homeless emergency grants for housing, food, medical, job-hunting and transportation expenses.

Greg Payton, chairman of Partners in Care, a coalition of 30 nonprofit providers dedicated to ending homelessness on Oahu, attended Monday’s news conference and said the average chronically homeless person has been living on the streets of Honolulu for six years. And 80 percent of them have some sort of underlying health condition, Payton said.

Getting them into temporary or permanent housing “usually requires building a level of trust,” he said.

“We’re not there to criminalize people,” Payton said. “We’re trying to provide housing.”

Since case workers began working intensely with the homeless in the Kakaako makai encampment, Payton said, they now know one another by name and the stronger relationships are helping to get homeless people more involved in outreach efforts.

Getting people off of the street “might not happen as quickly as people want it to,” Payton said, “but it will happen.”

Until at least Nov. 12, Ige plans to continue pursuing an approach he alternately called “assertive outreach” and “coordinated outreach” to get the homeless people living along the Kakaako shoreline into programs designed to get them off the street.

If they don’t, sheriff’s deputies will begin sweeping the encampments in a tactic that Ige called “compassionate relocation efforts.”

State rules currently ban park use from 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. in Kewalo Basin Park and Point Panic; and from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. in Kakaako Waterfront Park.

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