Iwilei neighbors, leaders meet on ‘past crisis’ homelessness | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Iwilei neighbors, leaders meet on ‘past crisis’ homelessness

  • JAMM AQUINO / JUNE 2

    Neighbors, leaders, police and businesses met Thursday to address Iwilei’s growing homeless population and crime and sanitation problems. A homeless encampment is seen near Lowe’s on Nimitz Highway.

Portable toilets, public showers, better coordination between businesses and even a government-sanctioned tent city were among the ideas proposed by lawmakers Thursday to address concerns about a growing — and increasingly hard-core — homeless population in Iwilei.

The meeting at the CurrentAffairs event planning business on Pine Street brought together 34 neighbors, lawmakers, police and businesses big and small concerned about homeless people who are moving in as the city and state continue to crack down on nearby encampments.

Thursday’s gathering included City Council members Joey Manahan, who represents Iwilei, and Carol Fukunaga, whose district includes portions of nearby Liliha and Kalihi; state Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland (D, Downtown-Nuuanu-Liliha); Gary Nakata, director of the city Department of Community Services; Connie Mitchell, executive director of the Institute for Human Serv­ices; and a half-dozen Honolulu police officers.

It followed a February meeting of 14 Iwilei businesses at which no elected officials appeared.

“We’re here for our staff and employees, and we’re all getting quite nervous,” Philip Richardson, president of CurrentAffairs, told Thursday’s crowd. “We’ve got to get some action plan going.”

Richard Gray, who has lived in Iwilei for 19 years, dominated Thursday’s meeting with a litany of complaints, including vandalism and having to clean up human feces every day.

“They’ve set fires in my building, deliberately broken into bathrooms,” Gray said. “So I’ve had doo-doo water spilling on my carpets. Yesterday we repaired a door they ripped off the hinges.”

The real solution to the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the country relies on more affordable housing, Nakata said.

But short-term gains might be accomplished by teaming up with the Iwilei Business Association, Chun Oakland said.

Manahan continues to push for a so-called “hygiene center” in his district where homeless people can shower, use the bathroom, wash their clothes and get social service assistance for their problems, which could include mental illness and drug or alcohol abuse.

He also favors a tent city in his district, although Manahan prefers the term “temporary encampment.”

“The state can partner with the city to use the empty Liliha Civic Center lot to set up temporary encampments and portable toilets,” Manahan said, adding, “This space will give a little bit of breathing room until we can better manage the area.”

Although the Liliha Civic Center is expected to be part of the rail line, Manahan said portable toilets could be used for at least a year, maybe two.

Nakata said the city’s only hygiene center in Chinatown “works” and that bigger ones are being considered. The Chinatown hygiene center consists of separate men’s and women’s toilets and showers, and opened on North Pauahi Street in February 2015.

It now gets used by 60 to 70 people every day, Nakata said.

“They keep it clean,” he said. “They respect the space and each other.”

Homeless-related break-ins, vandalism and drug trafficking plague Iwilei, and residents and business owners complained Thursday that police do not respond fast enough, if at all.

“What you’ve got to know is we cannot be here right away,” said police Sgt. Mike Fujioka, who covers Iwilei. “We have to take priority cases first.”

Iwilei has already seen “a couple of murders” this year, and “one murder will take most of the officers to investigate that crime scene,” Fujioka said.

From the beginning of the year through May, there were 626 crimes committed within a half-mile radius of Alakawa Street, Cpl. Dennis Higa said.

Officers said the best thing residents can do to help with arrests and prosecution is to be good witnesses and willing to testify in court.

Higa said residents and businesses can work together by forming a “Neighborhood Business Security Watch, which gets members of the business community trained to describe a suspect and know when to get involved.”

Mitchell of the nearby IHS homeless shelters asked residents to help keep track of homeless people they encounter regularly, especially those who might suffer from mental illness.

IHS outreach workers likely already know who they are. But Mitchell instructed residents to “report those you see who are chronically mentally ill and fixtures in the community so that we can have a clear list of those people and reach out to them.”

After the meeting, Nakata told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “Public input is key. These are the people being affected. They feel like government, in particular, is just not moving fast enough. It’s really come to a crisis point.“

But Karen Carlen, who has lived in the area for two years, said, “It’s past a crisis.

“This crisis was years ago,” she said. “I’m appalled. I’m upset.”

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  • See what happens when our leaders are politically correct? Obama and soon to be Ige and Caldwell are going to find out.
    This homeless situation has metastasized.

    • It is inhumane to allow this condition to continue. The chronically homeless are obviously ill and need help whether they want it or not. We need to develop and implement a comprehensive no loitering law. Those who are found living on the streets with no permanent local address need to be arrested and placed in a safe and fenced tent city or housing unit such as the old military dormitories in Kapolei. Upon proof of a place to stay, such as a homeless shelter, they may then be released. A work furlough program can be implemented to allow them to find jobs and be self supporting. Those who refuse to participate are clearly ill. The current condition is not safe for the homeless. The current condition is not safe for the homeless children. The current condition is not safe for the community. Our leaders must find a way to get them off the streets. Obviously, pushing them for place to place does not and never will work.

  • Sorry, but you better get used to it. And it will only get worse. Suzanne Chun-Oakland and Carol Fukunaga have volunteered their district to be the City’s dumping ground for the homeless. Their constituents COULD “thank” them at election time, but they don’t — so really, the residents only have themselves to blame.

    • Speaking as a constituent, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. My first inclination is NIMBY too, but the thing is, the homeless are here anyway, in every nook and crany. Better to gather them together, offer basic safety, personal hygene services and rubbish collection. There is no reason the residents and businesses of Iwilei or elsewhere should have to put up with filth and danger in their neighborhood.

      • we will really begin to the true colors of each district when the situation comes knocking at their doors (as it may have already). it’s easy to publicly criticize the political leaders in other seemingly more affected areas for now – until…..the NIMBY’s come out.

      • Yes we would like to “gather them together” and place them into rehab programs on Kahoolawe to earn their way back to society. ACLU will not allow this to happen. Ironically it would be for the better for all.

  • “Homeless-related break-ins, vandalism and drug trafficking plague Iwilei, and residents and business owners complained Thursday that police do not respond fast enough, if at all.

    “What you’ve got to know is we cannot be here right away,” said police Sgt. Mike Fujioka, who covers Iwilei. “We have to take priority cases first.”

    Iwilei has already seen “a couple of murders” this year, and “one murder will take most of the officers to investigate that crime scene,” Fujioka said.

    From the beginning of the year through May, there were 626 crimes committed within a half-mile radius of Alakawa Street, Cpl. Dennis Higa said.”

    isn’t it plain to see why the honest, law-abiding residents of bordering neighborhoods might seriously be thinking about applying for weapon ownerships? any of all these seemingly “harmless”, “non-injurious” incidents could easily become so bad that the chronic and dangerous druggies would begin to spread out from their immediate areas in search of anything of value that might finance their habits. breaking and entering could get more frequent and violent as it has happened in some areas. and as in a few cases, even the soonest police response was not quick enough. what are honest citizens to do when they are down to the last aspect of “run, hide, and defend” – in their own homes and/or their small local mom-and-pop stores!!!!?????

    • Caldwell wants to place the drug-addicted homeless into residential neighborhoods without requiring that they first give up drugs. The dealers will follow them, because of course they want to continue their business relationships . . . and then you’ll get massive increases in drug dealing and drug use in residential areas next to schools and families. And as you point out, that will lead to increase in gun ownership and over-all violence. Nice.

  • Homeless people are not responsible for the economy and the fact that rents are becoming less and less affordable for more and more people. I live at Iwilei and N. King, and see the same people every day, living on the street with all their stuff in a grocery cart. They need to be shown a place where they can live, and they need it TODAY. Not sometime maybe next year, when the city develops some property, blah blah blah. We MUST have many more public hygiene facilities IMMEDIATELY; if portable, fine. We must have reasonable places for people at least to pitch a tent. We must insist on getting help to the mentally ill and addicted. Legislators! In my opinion this is why we elect and pay legislators in the first place. Please, this is past urgent. Business people shouldn’t be the ones forced to handle the problem.

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