At least 50 people continue to camp along the parks and sidewalks of Kakaako makai despite ongoing efforts by state and city officials to move the homeless elsewhere.
On Monday afternoon, at least a dozen tents and tarps dotted the lawns of two Kakaako “gateway” parks abutting Ohe Street, along both sides of Ilalo Street.
Several street dwellers told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that after being pushed out of Kewalo Basin and Kakaako Waterfront Park the week before Christmas by the state for violating night park closure laws, they returned to the sidewalks along Ohe — where they had been ousted in the preceding weeks for running afoul of the city’s sidewalk nuisance and stored property ordinances — and been left alone for the most part.
On Monday morning, they said, they were told by authorities it was OK to pitch their tents in the two parks as long as they stayed off the sidewalks, even though there are signs on trees in the parks clearly stating they are closed from 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. daily.
Charade Keane said the constant uprooting has been stressful for her and her boyfriend, who works at a regular job, especially during the holidays. It’s been even tougher for the families around her that have young children, she said.
Keane said she’s finally agreed, with the coaxing of a social worker from Safe Haven Honolulu, to move into a unit in Chinatown. She and her boyfriend will need to live separately for a while, but she feels the urge to take the plunge now. If successful in the move, Keane said, “Then I can come back and tell the others here it’s OK to do it.”
She’d like to be able to trust government officials who assure her they’re trying to help, Keane said, but she finds it difficult to do when “you guys keep pushing (solutions) off like it’s not an emergency.”
Scott Morishige, Gov. David Ige’s coordinator on homelessness, said plans to convert a 5,000-square-foot maintenance shed near Kakaako Waterfront Park into a temporary transitional shelter are on pace to be completed in February. The 24-hour facility is expected to accommodate 60 individuals or 15 families at a time, with stays of up to 90 days. The focus will likely be on serving families, he said.
Beyond that, Morishige said, the state is continuing to work with contracted social workers to provide the Kakaako homeless “continued outreach on a regular basis into that area … making sure we’re offering anyone who’s homeless in that area access to shelter as well as other housing resources.”
Recently, five families that had been living in the Kewalo Basin area were moved into permanent housing through the state’s Housing First program, which is aimed at the chronically homeless population, Morishige said.
The governor’s recent emergency proclamation allowed for funding of the program to be increased, he said.
“It can happen really quickly and we’ve seen some success stories,” he said. “It does take time for people to make the decision to transition out of homelessness and into housing.”
Meanwhile, the city conducted a block-by-block clearing of campers through the early fall and has continued to conduct “maintenance enforcement” along Ilalo, Ohe and nearby streets.
Ross Sasamura, the city’s facility maintenance director, said the aim is keeping the sidewalks clear. “Sidewalks are not a place for people to inhabit at any time,” but for people to travel, he said.
Sidewalk enforcement has been taking place in Kakaako makai “once a week at minimum,” and two times or more if needed — “depending on the availability of resources and other subsequent complaints,” he said.
Most recently, the city reported, enforcement actions were conducted in Kakaako Makai on Dec. 14 and again Dec. 17, storing no private property and removing 2.83 tons of trash. Sasamura said he did not know whether an action took place Monday morning.