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Campaign aims to get homeless out of cars

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Barbara Allison-Simpson, who used to sleep in her car, now lives at the city’s Hale Mauliola community on Sand Island with her two dogs, Dixie and Sophie. She was photographed Thursday with her 2002 Ford Focus.

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Rickey “Pops” Crowell was homeless for three years and more recently lived out of his car until he was referred to Hale Mauliola. Cars that once doubled as homes for Hale Mauliola residents are parked along a fence at the Sand Island facility.

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Barbara Allison-Simpson has more space for her dogs now that she has moved out of her car and into a unit at Hale Mauliola on Sand Island.

No one knows how many homeless people are sleeping in their cars each night on Oahu, but the Institute for Human Services wants to get as many of them as possible into the city’s new Hale Mauliola community on Sand Island, where they can live in converted shipping containers while getting help finding long-term housing.

So IHS is launching a campaign to encourage neighbors who see homeless people living in their cars to refer them to IHS, which operates Hale Mauliola for the city.

Neighbors who do not feel comfortable making direct contact can email or call IHS with a description or photo of the vehicle, along with times and a location where it can be found.

IHS outreach workers will then try to convince the occupants to give Hale Mauliola a try, where pets are accepted and on-site social service assistance is available to help find permanent homes.

“We would like the community to be an extension of our outreach,” said IHS spokesman Kimo Carvalho.

Last year, 100 IHS clients reported living in their vehicles before moving into IHS’ shelters.

And since the start of 2016, IHS has received 37 complaints from neighbors about homeless people living in cars.

But neither the U.S. Census nor the annual national point-in-time count homeless survey specifically tally the number of homeless people living in vehicles.

“No one knows how many there are, but we know they’re parking in the community and in residential areas,” Carvalho said.

Living in a car can directly send a person to the street because they often rack up parking citations and violations for expired registrations or safety checks that can get their vehicle towed, resulting in additional costs that homeless people typically can’t afford, Carvalho said.

“It snowballs and just gets worse,” Carvalho said. “Often that’s the point when they come to IHS.”

Even with lower gas prices, AAA Hawaii said it still costs a national average of $8,558 annually to operate a car, according to AAA’s 2016 Your Driving Costs study. That breaks down to 57 cents a mile or $713 each month, according to an email from Elaine Beno, spokeswoman for AAA Hawaii.

IHS case workers will teach homeless car owners how to clear up their violations and citations, along with helping them manage their finances.

“Once they understand how to manage their car better, their parking citations, their expired registration, they learn that it actually builds savings down the road,” Carvalho said.

Anyone who wants to move into Hale Mauliola with a car has to provide proof of ownership. But Hale Mauliola will still welcome vehicles with expired registrations and outstanding citations, Carvalho said.

Councilman Joey Manahan, whose district includes Sand Island, has been critical of Hale Mauliola.

But Manahan likes IHS’ campaign to get homeless people out of their cars and on their way to long-term housing through Hale Mauliola.

“A lot of people who are sleeping in their cars in different places would take advantage of that,” Manahan said. “I think that’s going to be great for Hale Mauliola. A lot of people could be helped who are parking on the street, trying to find a safe spot.”

Barbara Allison-Simpson and her two Jack Russell terrier-mix dogs, Dixie and Sophie, had been living in Allison-Simpsons’s 2002 Ford Focus from Feb. 17 until they moved into Hale Mauliola on March 10.

Allison-Simpson, a self-described “Navy widow” and mother of an Army soldier, became homeless at the age of 72 in November when her son was reassigned from Schofield Barracks and her life spiraled.

Allison-Simpson had been sleeping in her car behind her church, Trinity Missionary Baptist Church near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, until she made the mistake of parking out front one night.

“The police came by and told me I couldn’t be there,” Allison-Simpson said.

So she drove to a Presbyterian church she knows in Mililani, parked her car and used the bathroom at a nearby baseball field.

But in four weeks living in her car with her dogs, Allison-Simpson never had a shower.

“You can’t eat regularly,” she said. “You can’t cook. I lost weight. I lost muscle tone.”

Rickey “Pops” Crowell, 57, moved into Hale Mauliola six weeks ago. Like Allison-Simpson, Crowell parks his 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix inside a secure area guarded around the clock.

Crowell had been homeless for three years and more recently was living out of his Grand Prix until he was referred to Hale Mauliola.

In three months living in his Pontiac, Crowell was robbed twice.

“Every little noise is scary,” he said. “There are people that want to rob us and beat us up. Even during the day you’re scared. Living in your car, you have no restroom. So you urinate in public. You have no trash can, so it goes in the street, as well.”

When he spent his second night in his Grand Prix in a Punchbowl neighborhood, Crowell said he knew that neighbors were aware because they yelled at him when Honolulu police surrounded his car.

“The neighbor came out and told the cops, ‘We don’t want these dirty people.’”

Then the neighbor, he said, turned to Crowell and said, “‘You could be a child molester or a burglar casing our place.’ The cops told me that if I ever came back I’d be immediately arrest- ed and my car would be towed.”

Crowell ended up sleeping in his car in the parking lot of the Iwilei Kmart — directly across from IHS — until he moved into Hale Mauliola.

On Thursday, Crowell signed a lease on a one-bedroom apartment in Kalihi.

“It’s a blessed day,” he said.

Crowell now thinks that every homeless person living in a car should take advantage of the offer from IHS.

“You’ll get a good night’s sleep for a change,” he said.

YOU CAN HELP

To refer a homeless person living in a car to the city’s Hale Mauliola shipping container community on Sand Island, call the Institute for Human Services at 447-2900.

Or email a description or photos of the vehicle, including location and time when it can be found, to info@ihs-hawaii.org. IHS outreach workers will attempt to make contact with the car’s occupants.

Information about Hale Mauliola can be found at ihshawaii.org/halemauliola; neighbors can provide the information to homeless people they see living in vehicles.

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  • “The cops told me that if I ever came back I’d be immediately arrested and my car would be towed.””

    Really? Under which law? If this is true, why aren’t they using that law immediately after sweeps in Kakaako?

    Or were the cops just lying to this citizen, which they are allowed to do?

    I’d also be interested at what the dispatchers were told this guy was doing by the reporting party….the way the story is written (Honolulu police surrounded his car) makes it sound like they were doing a felony stop, not an IC of a guy sleeping in his car, which would normally take 2 cops (one as back up) a couple of minutes to get his info, then run him through the system. Evidently, he was clean, as they didn’t take him in. He should have made a verbal harassment complaint against the resident who came out and verbally abused him…right in front of the cops.

    • kekelaward, you do know that they can have your car ticketed and towed from the street after a specific amount of time, right? And a verbal harassment complaint? Wouldn’t freedom of speech? “We don’t want these dirty people.” “You could be a child molester or a burglar casing our place.” Is that verbal harassment? Really? Do you think the homeless has the $ to file a verbal harassment complaint? Do you think he has $ to pay the meter in town, so he can go to court to file the papers?

  • Most of these homeless don’t even have an address for them to mail the paperwork to renew their car registrations either, so they need to provide some kind of mailbox system for these homeless too.

  • Mahalo. Sounds like a step in the right direction. Much better than ‘compassionate disruption’ from our Mayor, which costed us hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, that could have gone to this, and more.

  • “Living in your car, you have no restroom. So you urinate in public. You have no trash can, so it goes in the street, as well”.. Right! Therefore living in a car should be outlawed. But how to enforce it is a problem. The nuisance population should be watched by private citizens via video and as soon as they defecate, urinate throw trash THE CAR IS GONE, SOLD and the private eye gets the money minus administration expenses.

  • Looks like one pure Hawaiian to me. OHA should be taking care of their Ohana with the billions. Lucky the Trustees have one part Hawaiian under their fingernail than this true Hawaiian. Wassamatayou.

  • How about no overnight parking without an additional fee and registry for a particular neighborhood? Get rid of cars parked around Kapiolani park overnight. I feel for people who have to live like that, but there are certain vehicles I watch out for. One van I associate with increased break-ins around the neighborhood and it moves into different neighborhoods and comes back. Always makes me nervous.

  • Any homeless person who refuses to go to any shelter should be sent to Kahoolawe where they will have to live off of the land. Isn’t that what they want to do? Don’t pay rent, don’t pay taxes ………….no rules, drink all they want, do drugs all they want, have as many pets as they want.

  • If they want to get them out of their cars, just check their car registration, safety stickers, and outstanding citations. They are likely in violation on all counts – impound the car and send them to the shelters.

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