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Homeless roused in pre-dawn sweep

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DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

Johnny Kaawa and Samantha Rodrigues were displaced by Tuesday’s sweep at Kewalo Basin. Rodrigues, 19, said she’s been homeless for eight years.

The state initiated a sweep well before daylight at Kewalo Basin Park on Tuesday, rousting the homeless from their encampments starting at 2 a.m.

Enforcing park closure hours — 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. — the encampments on state land overseen by the Hawaii Community Development Authority were dismantled.

Signs have been posted since late October around Kewalo Basin and Kakaako Waterfront Park to notify park users of closure hours, according to state homeless coordinator Scott Morishige. Within the past week HCDA and social service providers also informed campers that enforcement would soon begin.

Last week social service outreach workers estimated that 180 homeless people were lining the Kakaako shoreline from Kewalo Basin to Point Panic to Kakaako Waterfront Park. The majority were in the park’s amphitheater, next to the University of Hawaii Cancer Center.

State sheriff’s deputies Tuesday arrested two men and a woman for outstanding warrants and bail violations, said Toni Schwartz, spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety.

It’s unclear how many homeless people were at Kewalo before the sweep.

“Because some were in the process of breaking down (tents), it was difficult to get an accurate number,” Morishige said. “The number really fluctuates.”

“We plan to continue enforcement of our closure hours on a continuous basis,” said Morishige, who was on-site during the sweep and said social service and outreach providers from the Institute for Human Services and the Kalihi Palama Health Center were also there to assist the homeless.

The encampments exploded in size as the city spent six weeks clearing out the nearby “Kakaako makai” encampment that in August included 293 homeless people.

Tuesday’s sweep was a multiagency joint effort involving the HCDA, Department of Public Safety, city and social services as well as outreach providers.

The state partnered with the city to provide buses for anyone who wanted to go to a shelter. Morishige said only one person pursued that option and was transported to the Institute for Human Services and enrolled in the state Housing First program.

“At the end of the day, our ultimate goal is really to get individuals off the streets and into permanent housing,” he added.

Personal items left behind were picked up by a private contractor and stored at an undisclosed warehouse. Morishige declined to identify the contractor, saying he wanted to ensure the safety of employees.

Items not picked up by the contractor for storage were collected by workers of the Waikiki Health Center and Kewalo Harbor and were to be discarded.

Justin Chang, a Kewalo Harbor maintenance employee, helped load the bed of a white pickup truck with wooden pallets and at least half a dozen bicycle tires that had been left near the shoreline. He said he supported the sweep but also empathizes with the homeless. “I feel for these guys,” Chang said.

While the sweep was underway, a small group of homeless people waited outside the park on the sidewalk with their belongings, and planned to return to the site after the effort wrapped up.

“This is just ridiculous,” said 19-year-old Samantha Rodrigues, who had been living at the park for nine months.

She said she has been homeless since she was 11 years old and had lived on the streets for several years before she moved to Kewalo. “This was the last place I felt safe,” she said.

The state plans to convert a vacant, 5,000-square-foot shed into a homeless shelter next to the UH Cancer Center in February.

Sitting at a picnic table at Kewalo, a woman who declined to give her name broke down in tears, frustrated by the sweep. “Fo’ real, where the (expletive) are we going to go?” she asked. She said she has been looking for a job, but getting hired has been a challenge because of her criminal record.

Blake Yafuso, 58, who surfs at Kewalo Basin weekly, said the sweep was long overdue. The homeless obstructed the park’s walkways and left rubbish throughout the grounds. “The bathrooms would be a mess. It wasn’t a good location to bring your family,” he said.

Yafuso, an electrical contractor, is a member of the Friends of Kewalos, an organization comprising recreational users who help take care of the park grounds. Although he sympathizes with the homeless and their struggles, Yafuso said, “If they took care of the land, took care of the location, it wouldn’t have been as bad.”

Everyone should abide by the park hours, he said. “For us, we respect the times that the park is open and closed. Everybody should respect that,” he said.

Staff writer Dan Nakaso contributed to this report.

43 responses to “Homeless roused in pre-dawn sweep”

  1. Surfer_Dude says:

    Keep the pressure up.

  2. scuddrunner says:

    I love it! Keep up the good work!

  3. mikethenovice says:

    Reminds me of the military boot camp where they wake you up at the wee hours of the morning, disrupting my REM sleep.

  4. mikethenovice says:

    Let’s see the ACLU back up the homeless against this harrassment?

  5. Marauders_1959 says:

    Conduct raids like this, more often… without prior announcement.

  6. PBnJz says:

    Seems a little harsh to do it at that time of night. Agree the park rules need to be abided. Not sure if doing the sweep at 1030 pm is more appropriate, since “residents” were at least able to get some sleep. But maybe they’d be more motivated to go to shelter in order to get some sleep is the sweep was at nite and instead of in morning.

  7. islandsun says:

    Enforcement is good. Go to the shelters, accept help, or move back to where you came from.

  8. FARKWARD says:

    Shameful, inhumane, despicable, uncivilized, prejudicial; extra territorium jus dicenti impune non paretur..

  9. McCully says:

    As usual, the homeless wait on the sidelines and move back in when everybody leaves. Nothing is solved.

    • PCWarrior says:

      So true McCully. Look if we really want to get rid of the homeless, we just need to shoot them already. If we have no compassion, if we have no place in our hearts for these poor lost souls, we need to exterminate them like pigeons making a mess on our lanai. Shoot to kill, my friends, shoot to kill and then we’ll all be happy.

  10. soundofreason says:

    “She said she has been looking for a job, but getting hired has been a challenge because of her criminal record.”>>> So YOU commit the crimes and WE’RE supposed to feel bad because you can’t land a job because of those crimes?

  11. Mickels8 says:

    CPS do your job, find those homeless children a family that can provide for their needs. Stop enabling the substance-dependent homeless parents.

  12. saveparadise says:

    Great job! The homeless problem is being addressed and these people will be encouraged to get help. Receiving welfare checks is one thing but camping out illegally on public grounds should not be an option.

  13. HawaiiCheeseBall says:

    *YAWN* another homeless sweep. We all know the drill, the government goes in, the roust some guys and throw away what was left behind. A couple of guys will go to shelter, but the vast majority will not. The homeless will move back in or relocate to set up a new encampment. The cycle then begins again. I’m not saying what the government is doing is wrong, I’m just thinking its no longer “news”. Its just public property maintenance.

    • saveparadise says:

      C’mon Cheesy, we gotta keep the heat on these politicians to do their job. The homeless count was once 300 and its down to 180….maybe. Who knows where the rest of them went. Large numbers create a community of their own and enforcement of order and law in any form becomes difficult and dangerous.

  14. wrightj says:

    Anybody can become homeless; no one is immune.

  15. roxie says:

    For some, it is a choice….not wanting to work, did not do well in school in their earlier years, no job training “skills,”live off welfare system working with what $$ is given to them, no desire to be employed and drug addiction….on the other hand, mental illness, high cost of living in hawaii has driven homeless people to occupy waterfront properties.

  16. NoFire says:

    “Fo’ real, where the (expletive) are we going to go?” Try the (expletive) shelter!!!

  17. Jiujitsu_Fighter says:

    Many of the homeless people in Hawaii came from other states. I’ve heard they received one-way tickets to get rid of them. Why can’t they be sent back to where they came from?

  18. loio says:

    good job, keep it up

  19. StifelHNL says:

    i roust myself at 430a to walk to work.

  20. Kuokoa says:

    Awe, pau ting you! Get your a__ off drugs, get a job and go to a shelter if you need to. Live by the rules of society and you will survive and maybe even thrive!

  21. paloloboyz says:

    Can the state rent out the empty Cutter Dodge/Jeep sales and service building for a temp shelter.

  22. Racoon says:

    Can you come out to Hawaii Kai? Got some bums camped out behind the Salvation Army hut at the Park/Ride parking lot across from City Mill. go git ’em.

  23. samidunn says:

    Just enforce the law

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