comscore Talks pave way for more homeless sweeps | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Talks pave way for more homeless sweeps

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Authorities are planning a second round of homeless sweeps in Kakaako, no earlier than Dec. 9. Some homeless watched from the makai side of Ilalo Street as city workers threw rubbish away on the mauka side of the road Sept. 29.

Initially they got no takers, but state officials now say they’ve found the private bidders they’ll need to help them remove homeless residents who’ve recently taken shelter along the Kakaako shoreline.

The move has authorities gearing up for a second significant round of homeless sweeps to break up encampments in Honolulu’s Kakaako neighborhood in a period of several months. Starting in September, the city spent weeks gradually clearing the separate so-called “Kakaako makai” encampment, where nearly 300 homeless residents lived in makeshift tents and shanties makai of Ala Moana Boulevard. Many of the people who lived there have since relocated to dozens of tents just blocks away, at the state-owned Kakaako Waterfront and Kewalo Basin parks.

Sweeps at the new encampment sites, where as many as 130 people have been counted, likely would not happen anytime before Dec. 9. That’s when the board for the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which owns the seafront parkland, is slated to review plans and procedures for sweeps, according to the agency’s executive director.

“We have reissued and received interest” from private contractors to help with sweeps, HCDA Executive Director Anthony Ching said Friday. The agency had previously approached eight contractors to submit bids on how much they would charge to clear encampments, but all declined, HCDA officials said. The agency acknowledged that at least some of those contractors might have wanted to avoid the high-profile publicity of clearing out a homeless encampment.

Now, Ching said, HCDA is in talks with interested contractors.

“At this point we’re confident we’ll have sufficient staffing to conduct those enforcements,” he said. Ching declined to name the interested parties because no deal has been signed yet. “We’re finalizing our protocols and procedures and staffing at this point.”

Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator, said there’s no set date yet for future sweeps. The timing depends on conversations between HCDA, the state Department of Public Safety and other agencies that would participate to ensure “all the pieces of enforcement are in place.”

The state would like to move forward “as soon as possible,” but it’s important to get HCDA’s approval of procedures for the sweeps first, he added.

Morishige said social service and outreach providers would also participate, to give the homeless at the shoreline parks options at shelters or the state’s Housing First program “if they choose to accept.”

“You cannot compel someone to go to a shelter,” Morishige added.

It’s not clear where many of those who decline services would go instead as the city, reacting to Oahu’s growing homelessness crisis, has ramped up enforcement of laws that prevent blocking sidewalks or illegally storing property across the island, as well as sleeping or lying down in financial centers such as Waikiki, downtown and Chinatown.

Ray Albert, who lives in a small makeshift tent hitched together with various materials atop Kakaako Waterfront Park, said Friday that he doesn’t know where he would go next if the state proceeds with sweeps. He added that he would be open to moving to a shelter or house, and that he had been forced onto the streets after his former landlord evicted him from a Chinatown apartment for having too many people live there.

Albert added that he had moved to the waterfront site from the Kakaako encampment after sweeps started there.

The most recent counts available put the total tents at Kakaako Waterfront Park at 81 and total tents at Kewalo Basin Park at 29. Officials at nearby Waikiki Health weren’t available Friday to provide an update.

Ching said the number of tents at those sites appears to be growing, however.

“We certainly understand the gravity, and we’re working in a coordinated fashion to bring solutions,” he said.

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Star-Advertiser reporter Dan Nakaso contributed to this report.

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