Coordinated amid discord: City, state work to clear out homeless pockets still in Kakaako
  • Wednesday, June 19, 2019
  • 80°
Hawaii News

Coordinated amid discord: City, state work to clear out homeless pockets still in Kakaako

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Homeless people have returned to Kakaako Gateway Park, with an encampment along Ilalo Street. Totoa Totoa fixed a bike on Friday, one of many he’s repaired for his neighbors.

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Above, Richard Toka sorted through his recyclables. He pulls his cart full of bottles and cans with his bike to the recycling center. He said Friday that he wouldn’t make much that day.

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Ike Ikea sat in his tent Friday at a homeless encampment along Ilalo Street.

  • Kalihi-Palama Health Center outreach workers counted 50 to 60 homeless people Wednesday night, primarily in Mauka Gateway Park and on the sidewalks of Ohe and Olomehani streets near the Makai Gateway and Kakaako Waterfront parks. But a member of the Hawaii Community Development Authority board believes the population can be as high as 100 on some nights.

Even though the city and state have been teaming up to clear out the persistent Kakaako homeless encampment, one member of the board that oversees the waterfront parks says the population is growing to dangerous levels.

“Gangs are being established there,” said Steve Scott of the Hawaii Community Development Authority. “They’re vandalizing the electrical system. The homeless are going in and charging their phones and screwing up the timing of the sprinkler system. They destroyed the water valves trying to get water. The feces and other things are all back. There’s a problem with feral cats. There’s a problem with dogs. This is the same thing that concerned the police the last time: having so many people in a concentrated area.”

Outreach workers with the Kalihi-Palama Health Center reported that 50 to 60 people were living in the area Wednesday night, primarily in Mauka Gateway Park and on the sidewalks of Ohe and Olomehani streets near the Makai Gateway and Kakaako Waterfront parks, said Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator.

The numbers are less than a quarter of the 293 people who were counted in August. And some 250 formerly homeless people from the area have since been placed into shelters or permanent housing, Morishige said.

Two entered the city’s Hale Mauliola transitional housing project on Sand Island last week, Morishige said, and social service outreach workers were working to get four more homeless people out of Kakaako.

Danger lingers

50-60

People living in Mauka Gateway Park and surrounding areas during a Wednesday night count by outreach workers

293

People counted in August

250

Formerly homeless who have been placed in shelters or housing

But as the anniversary approaches of the June 29 attack on state Rep. Tom Brower at the intersection of Ohe and Olomehani streets that drew attention to the once densely packed encampment, Scott said there could be as many as 100 people living illegally in the area on any given night.

Primarily, Scott worries that the encampment is becoming dangerous again.

“It’s just very, very frustrating,” he said.

Since December, a special city cleanup crew that clears out encampments on city property across the island has been working side-by-side with two private companies that HCDA hired to clear out its Kakaako Waterfront Park and nearby Mauka and Makai Gateway parks, HCDA spokeswoman Lindsey Doi said.

The city enforces two ordinances that apply to city sidewalks and streets in Kakaako — one regulating stored property and another addressing sidewalk nuisances. State sheriff’s deputies and two sister companies — Got Junk? and You Move Me — simultaneously enforce park closure hours inside the adjacent state-owned parks.

Homeless people had been simply crossing Ala Moana Boulevard to wait out each night’s sweep until the parks reopened at 6 a.m.

But since May 9, the city’s cleanup crew has had special permission to keep the state-owned, mauka side of Ala Moana Boulevard clear of homeless belongings, said Ross Sasamura, director and chief engineer of the city’s Department of Facility Maintenance.

Preventing homeless people from sleeping on the mauka side of Ala Moana Boulevard merely forced them to move farther Ewa on Ala Moana Boulevard during sweeps Monday and Wednesday night, according to several homeless people who were waking up in Mauka Gateway Park Friday morning.

They all said the dual city and state crackdown forced them to spend the night on either side of Ala Moana Boulevard on the sidewalks in front of either Restaurant Row or the Homeland Security building.

“They chased us all the way to Restaurant Row,” said Totoa Totoa Jr. “We just went from one side of the street to the other.”

Totoa’s 18-year-old son, Isiah, allegedly was involved in last summer’s attack on Brower (D, Waikiki-Ala Moana-Kakaako), but was not arrested. Isiah and his girlfriend also live in Mauka Gateway Park with their 8-month-old child, and his girlfriend is now pregnant with another, said Isiah’s mother, Agnes Totoa.

“My son wants to get off the streets,” Agnes said.

Charade Keane, 43, and her boyfriend, Gabriel Aio, 44, have been on the move constantly since they were swept out of Kakaako last year and had been living at Ala Moana Beach Park until they moved back to Mauka Gateway Park this month.

Keane and Aio also made the trek down Ala Moana Boulevard when the city and state cleanup crews moved in Monday and Wednesday nights.

“Everybody’s exhausted and stressed out,” Keane said. “We’re doing this back and forth night after night. It’s hard. It’s exhausting.”

Like others, John Kauaeheiwa, 22, said the combined efforts by the state and city are still not enough to get him to change his lifestyle.

“They’re trying to make us go into a shelter,” Kauaeheiwa said. “No chance. Too many rules.”

Expanding duties

On June 1, the HCDA board will consider approving a memorandum of understanding between the state and the city that will give city cleanup crews permission to clear out the state-owned parks.

Scott remains cautious that the agreement will produce tangible results.

“I wouldn’t say I’m optimistic,” Scott said. “But at least it’s a step in the right direction to have one entity that will enforce the rules.”

As it does around the island, Sasamura’s crew responds to complaints in Kakaako from a wide variety of people, he said.

“For us, the sidewalk nuisance ordinance is the one that’s most effective in keeping walkways and sidewalks clear,” Sasamura said.

The city crew joined Got Junk? and You Move Me twice last week in sweeping the area, Doi and Sasamura said.

“We’ll be going out as often as necessary as dictated by the complaints we receive,” Sasamura said. “We get complaints coming from the public. They may be park users, people who work there, walk through the area. There’s a variety of community concerns.”

Complaints about violations of the city’s stored property or sidewalk nuisance ordinances anywhere on Oahu can be made by calling 768-4381.

While Scott worries the Kakaako encampment is growing, Doi contends the so-called “coordinated enforcement” between the state and city is working.

And Doi credited social service outreach workers for helping to persuade homeless people to move out of Kakaako and into homeless shelters and long-term housing.

“That’s a positive,” she said. “A lot more people are being placed into shelters. It’s always good to coordinate with all of the agencies. … It’s a slow progress. But we do see some progress, which is positive.”

Scott, however, remains frustrated.

“It’s been a problem that’s been ongoing for quite some time,” he said. “It’s just not right.”

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  • But, didn’t the cops tell that guy who sleeping in his car in Punchbowl that he would be arrested if he ever comes back?

    Why aren’t we using that law…or was the cop just lying to him?

    Why aren’t these people being trespassed from these parks, then arrested if they return like Totoa and his criminal, baby making factory son and his girlfriend? Or John Kauaeheiwa, who at 22, is refusing to look for work and refuses to go to a shelter because of the rules? He’s been given every chance to get off the streets. Enough coddling already.

    • The government has to keep the pressure on. Moving one or two is easier than trying to move one or tro hundred.
      Law enforcement should be down there 24/7.

    • Total incompetence and helplessness of the system in dealing with the nuisance population. All because it is not allowed to treat them properly: HARSHER!

    • Unlike the late Michael Jackson, the homeless kid who help beat up Tom Brower is both a lover and a fighter. Making more homeless babies means more MONEY. That is a sweet life to live on oceanfront property next to multi million dollar condo owners, not have to work and just have to make sure to get the girlfriend preggars as many times as possible. Of course government assistance is not provided in cash but there are a lot of ‘stores’ or ‘middlemen’ that will trade debit cards used only for food into cold hard cash for booze, drugs, cigs or whatever. Or course the middleman will collect a service fee such as for a $100 worth of food on a debit card you get back only $50-60 back in cash.

  • Totoa and his criminal baby making factory son have no Aloha. Clearly they are from here and need to be sent back home. Homeless from Hawaii have shame – this guy does not.

  • State is taking too long to clear out the parks & the number of homeless are multiplying. The homeless refuse to go shelters because of the rules & are allowed to set up camp without a permit for an endless duration of time. Such leniency for lawbreakers but not for the law abiding taxpayers that are forced to support them.

    • Totally agree! Normal law abiding citizens can get a parking ticket around the Kakaako area, but the homeless in the area are allowed to live, steal, harass, defecate and vandalize the area without any repercussion.
      Enough is enough! The homeless should be given a choice, either seek help or be locked up. They are not contributing to society in anyway.

  • Im not buying anything these clowns are putting forth till I see a mandatory work program, initiatives to stop the flow from outside, and a homeless task force.

  • Sad to say losers like John Kauaeheiwa, 22, are the perfect example why some people are stuck on the streets. When he said, “They’re trying to make us go into a shelter,” Kauaeheiwa said. “No chance. Too many rules.”

    Hello John? Earth to John. Life is all about following the rules. Resistance is futile. You either follow them or get left behind on the trash heap of losers who will never succeed during their short life.

    John, you need to look in the mirror and see your main problem in life. You! Either get with the program or spend your miserable life on the streets. Deal with it.

  • Vandalism, gangs, feral cats, feces – is this not enough to do something right now! Are we going to wait for a health crisis or more violence? Come on Mayor and Governor – it’s time you got off your fat butts and get this thing taken care of! Pure frustration!

  • They need to cite them the first time and then jail then if they return. Set up a fenced area with water outlet and security in some remote area and put them there. Tell the churches and charities to bring food and clothing there instead of the street and parks. They seem to like the outdoors so it should be more to their liking than a real prison cell. No rules just that you can’t leave the area.

  • The issue is why roundup(like cattle) in Kakaako and not other pockets? Strange that all the development for high-rise/priced is centered in the same location! Developers have the inside tract while residents in other congested neighborhoods are ignored. Chinatown???

    • Look behind that homeless guy – Kakaako offers beach front living, nice park (was), and great views – that is the reason for development there. The “roundup” is because, again look at the picture, the homeless are taking over the park and depriving the public from using what they are paying for. They ruin the park, take over the park benches, and are dangerous (like beating up that RE. Brower). Don’t act so ignorant.

  • “They’re trying to make us go into a shelter,” Kauaeheiwa said. “No chance. Too many rules.” – We may need new laws for the really hardcore homeless like this guy. Jail may be the only thing he understands. They’ll go to a shelter if the alternative is jail.

      • Put them in jail! The “authorities” will get tired before the homeless – the homeless have free ocean front living, great views, free food from the du*mb churches and charities that bring food to them – they will return forever for that.

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