comscore Another wave of homeless hits Waikiki beaches | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Hawaii News

Another wave of homeless hits Waikiki beaches


    Police officer David Kuaana handed a ticket to a man who was sleeping under a lifeguard stand last week in Waikiki. The man left the area, but when the beach reopened at 5 a.m. — 10 minutes later — he returned to continue sleeping.


    A man slept on the beach last month near the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort.

Recent cutbacks in Institute for Human Services Waikiki outreach efforts have led to complaints that homelessness is growing again in the state’s top tourism district, but Hawaii visitor industry officials vow to shore up the program, which would have closed next month without a cash infusion.

The visitor industry-supported outreach program has earned many accolades since it began operations in November 2014. But it ran into trouble this spring when the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association decided to move the program’s major fundraiser, the Hawaii for Hawaii benefit concert, to Oct. 22 from May. The concert’s new timing at the end of the nonprofit’s fiscal year prompted IHS in March to reduce its outreach and shuttle services from four times weekly to twice weekly.


The Institute for Human Services provided intensive Waikiki outreach four days a week from November 2014 to March, and two days a week through June. The nonprofit produced the following results:


Homeless individuals served


Homeless individuals moved off Waikiki streets


Homeless individuals moved into shelter


Homeless individuals moved into housing


Rides to shelter facilities


Out-of-towners who went home through an airline relocation program, which paid for part of their tickets

Source: IHS 18-month progress report

“We scaled back because we knew that we wouldn’t have sufficient funding to continue at the level that we had been going before,” said Connie Mitchell, IHS executive director. “We approached the visitor industry back in March, and we’ve been working on a solution for a few months. We’re really excited about being able to continue in Waikiki.”

Mufi Hannemann, HLTA president and chief executive, said the Hawaii Hotel Industry Foundation, which controls the industry group’s charitable funds, called an emergency meeting Friday to address the IHS shortfall.

Hannemann said the foundation will guarantee that IHS won’t run out of money to do what it needs to do. The board also agreed to split the proceeds from its October concert with IHS and two other, unnamed entities. That move could reduce IHS funding, but Hannemann said the board will work with IHS’ board to create a sustainable business model that isn’t as dependent on HLTA funding.

Mitchell said the program cost $1.3 million in its first 19 months, with about $561,000 coming from HLTA and other visitor industry sources and $805,000 coming from IHS’ own budget and fundraising efforts. Mitchell said IHS’ program has served 607 of Waikiki’s homeless residents, helping nearly 200 out-of-towners pay for tickets home and moving hundreds of others into shelters and permanent housing.

“We don’t want them to stop the work that they are doing in Waikiki. No one wants the problems that we had to come back,” Hannemann said.

Many in the visitor industry and the community have credited IHS’ Waikiki outreach with reducing homelessness in the district, which two years ago was at crisis level. But they say homelessness, especially at the district’s beaches, has been resurfacing since IHS cut back.

“We’ve seen a new wave of homeless on the beaches in the last three to four months,” said Barry Wallace, executive vice president of hospitality services for Outrigger Enterprises Group.

Just after dawn on a recent Friday, 25 homeless campers lined Waikiki’s shoreline. Some had empty bottles and bags of recyclables tucked around them. One displayed a sign asking passers-by for money. Most were using hotel towels as blankets. Didi Robello, head of Aloha Beach Services, an ocean-sports hub on the grounds of the Moana Surfrider Hotel, said some have turned the beaches into their own personal outdoor toilets.

“I’m pouring bleach every day,” Robello said.

Lifeguards have had similar concerns for several months, said City Emergency Services Department Director Mark Rigg. “People are sleeping in their towers, and they are pooping and peeing,” he said.

Mayor’s tour of area

Prompted by recent complaints, Mayor Kirk Caldwell took an early-morning tour of the district Thursday, along with Rigg and city Director of Facility Maintenance Ross Sasamura. The trio was accompanied by a team of Honolulu police officers.

Proponents of park closure and public-nuisance laws say enforcement has decreased the number of homeless individuals living on Waikiki’s public sidewalks and using the neighborhood as a toilet. But critics say the stepped-up enforcement has moved some of these campers to the beaches, which are harder to control.

Waikiki beaches, from Fort DeRussy to Kapahulu Avenue, are closed to the public from 2 to 5 a.m.

Kapiolani Park, including Kaimana Beach, is closed to the public from midnight to 5 a.m. Outside of these hours, police can’t move homeless sleepers, who have the same rights as sunbathers.

“When developing the sit-lie laws, we did discuss the fact that the beach park would be a loophole, but it obviously wasn’t a workable idea to ban people from lying on the beach during the day,” said city spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke.

That scenario played out Thursday in front of Caldwell. Just before dawn police chased a homeless man from under a Waikiki lifeguard tower in a closed beach park. The man walked off with his citation, but when Kuhio Beach reopened at 5 a.m., he returned — this time with a friend. “By 5:01 a.m. they are already back again. It happens every day, over and over again,” said Officer Rance Okano.

Honolulu police Capt. Leland Cadoy, who is assigned to Waikiki, said the incident illustrates why homelessness requires a collaborative response. “Outreach workers can continue where we leave off,” Cadoy said. “We have to work together. It takes a constant effort.”

The day of Caldwell’s visit, police cited 13 people for park closure violations. In the past two years, Waikiki officers have issued 390 warnings and 3,641 citations and made 260 arrests for park closure violations.

Police also have enforced Waikiki’s public-nuisance laws. Since September 2014 they have issued five warnings and 91 citations and made 17 arrests for public urination or defecation in Waikiki.

During the same period, there were 2,378 warnings, 458 citations and 12 arrests for violating the sit-lie law. Last week alone, police issued 18 warnings and three sit-lie citations in Waikiki, and two citations for public urination and defecation.

Ralph “Buddy” McCarroll, who has been staying at IHS’ Sumner Shelter for about a week, said police enforcement and penalties never deterred him from breaking rules or made him want to seek shelter. “The rules didn’t work with me. Police try to scare you, but I welcome three hots and a cot,” said McCarroll, who has spent more than a decade of his life incarcerated.

McCarroll said Justin Phillips, who heads IHS’ Waikiki outreach, visited him for almost two years before he made the decision to seek shelter. “Having more Justins would help. It’s very important that he’s out there every day. He’s helpful. He’s got the connections. He can find housing,” he said.

Additional resources

Caldwell wants the visitor industry to continue supporting outreach programs. In return he’s pledging further resources. He said the city plans to install LED lighting to make Waikiki pavilions less appealing to rule-breakers. He said the city will also put closure signs and barriers around the most problematic lifeguard towers.

The mayor added that he will ask the Judiciary to impose tougher penalties for extreme rule violators. Honolulu police told him that they’ve arrested people with as many as 200 park closure tickets, only to see judges release them for time served. McCarroll said he was jailed for only two days after police issued him 18 tickets for public intoxication and one for smoking at the bus stop.

“We can’t waste our resources repeatedly doing the same thing and getting the same unacceptable result,” Caldwell said.

Police also told the mayor they need assistance responding to the medical needs of homeless people they arrest. “About 75 percent have to go to the ER. It’s a two- to three-hour process, and we have to stay with them,” said HPD Officer Ross Borges. “If we make two to three arrests, we’re in Straub all night.”

Caldwell said he’s evaluating whether security teams cross-trained in social services could augment the work of police officers in places like Waikiki, Iwilei, Kakaako and Chinatown. Discussions about this idea and others will continue next week when he meets with George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the agency’s leadership team and industry stakeholders.

“Homelessness is an ongoing issue that needs to remain a collective focus. It’s the No. 1 complaint the HTA receives from visitors about their vacation experience,” Szigeti said. “It’s clear they feel we cannot become complacent in the matter and must continue to support the programs that help those who need it most.”

Comments (72)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Leave a Reply

  • Here’s a thought, what if AirBnB in Hawaii neighborhoods is forcing folks onto the street. In some places, rents have risen 45% in the last 3-years. That’s gott hurt since incomes barely nudged during that time.

    • Oh come on star08, do you believe any of the homeless would be able to afford a house in Kailua to rent even if the rent was half as much as it is now? These are people that don’t have a work history at all! You are mixing two entirely unrelated topics. The rents in Waianae are even too high for these people. If you really want to see them go away then the city and state will just have to house them for free and provide them with fresh needles and vouchers for alcohol. I support a tax increase of 1% to do this!

      • Is free housing really a good idea? Wouldn’t this attract more deadbeats to what is basically the best climate in the U.S. to be homeless in?

        • @gmejk, they provided free housing in Utah and it worked. It was a program called “Housing First.” They provided small units for homeless to live in; if they wanted to do drugs or drink in their home, that was fine (that’s one reason some of these folks don’t go to shelters, because of no drink/drug rules and other rules). They found out they actually saved money by doing this. Because the people were off the street; so police, emergency workers, etc., were freed up from dealing with them.

        • Seems to read like 200 of the so-called homeless got free tickets to fly back home. Not bad getting a round-trip fare for the price of one-way ticket

        • @Oahuan; didn’t you read the article? The program helping the homeless was out of funding. How do funds get replaced? By taxes! I’d happily pay more in taxes to get these people off the streets.

    • HTA AND OLD man Mufi must be insane to risk tourism by cutting funds to IHS. Mufi is just a huge fail. Everywhere he goes he is a disaster. Please double these funds. Not just restore them. Hawaii has zero to offer anyone anywhere except through tourism. Defend your own survival!

  • Release the dogs on them already.

    It’s only a matter of time that some tourist comes down with something due to the human waste left on the beach and the city and state (read taxpayers) gets sued heavily. The Facebook and Twitter pictures of piles of excrement in the sand with Diamond Head in the background will really look great on the front page of the New York Times.

  • And how many still own Makua and Makaha beaches? How many of you would even go to those beautiful beaches after sunset? Last census over 7000. Average home now over 750,000 average rental home near 1750.00. Gallon of milk near 10.00. Is there even a middle class left? Sad commentary but true.

    • All these high prices is a consequence of population growth fueled by rampant immigration causing overpopulation. Go to some mainland states and prices are still a mere fraction.

      • You got this correct! Too many people moving here. Many have money to buy ever-increasingly expensive homes (high demand + limited supply = increasing value) and others just want a free place in the sun. Us locals pay the price by being forced out of our own homes. Hawaii is more than full and the last thing we need is more people coming here. I have no problem helping local people who have issues but others who are deliberately homeless need to GET REAL!

  • As soon as I see the name Mufi Hanneman I fume. I can’t believe Hawaii’s taxpayers are still paying this guy. How come we never hear from him about Rail?

  • folks…wake up… Honlulu has a major crisis and it is called Homeless…no can kick the can down the road anymore…the can is at the cliff…no more chances…..the visitor industry, esp the Waikiki business mafia (hotel owners and management companies) are raking in hundreds of millions (profits!) for the last three plus years..go back and check out their press releases…mentioning all time occupancy rates, record daily hotel room rates…more time share hotels,,renovating properties and upgrading (that local cannot afford to stay). Wall street mafia investment firms continue to buy and sell choice Waikiki properties because of record profits…Hawaii is being traded like a cum they cannot put some of the kala back into the community, help the homeless, help local Waikiki groups that are making Waikiki a better place to visit, help the ZOO…. folks the so called $1.5 million that King Mufi mentions to help with Waikiki homeless outreach is a shibai and a disgrace..and to say they may need to cut IHS outreach work because no mo kala is so chicken kaka…
    Mufi-super man, how about a base line of $10 million to start…this will bring in REAL resources to outreach, and be part of a greater Oahu wide solution of transitional and permanent supportive housing where the Waikiki homeless can move to…da Waikiki mafia is loaded! Plus they can write off as charitable donation…da REAL problem is Mayor Kirky no like stand up to them (in an RE-ELECTION Year)as he needs kala for his war chest…who is he afraid off, his shadow??? No mo City Hall leadership to tackle this problem…in office for 4 years…all wasted..if he wanted to deal with this issue, he would summoned all the business leaders, churches, military (they can help with building temp housing, provide MASH medical help, if needed,,,we have a homeless crisis folks,,,wake up), UH, HPU, Chaminade U (they have students who can help with educational programs, social work, health assessment/care), sponsor nationally recognized Project Homeless Connect that will bring street homeless esp to a place like NBC for a day to be connected to services, and have folks volunteer with their special training…ie retired docs and nurses, attorneys to provide legal assistance, eye care, wheel care repair, and more…successful model to also have the community better understand that most homeless are trying to break the cycle..)
    Do the math…for $40 million, this would provide support services and operating rent subsidy to help 1,000 homeless households a year….the key is to rehab and start building supportive housing in key areas that will allow homeless to connect to transportation, jobs, health care and schools for their kids…how about having the federal govt sign a long term lease for part of Shafter Flats to build a supportive housing site (200 units, apt style)…the State has the kala to help, and our new billionaire neighbors (former ebay founder Pierre O; Oracle Ellison; Facebook boy wonder Mark Z and many more who are here but under the radar)and our well do corporations and so called top 25 riches persons in Hawaii can show some leadership with a long term giving program…..and they can write it off…we are in a crisis and having cops give tickets to chase the homeless away is so sad….btw: as a homeless person get more of these tickets, it will be harder for the person to have a decent resume to find a job so stop the ticket giving and give them some HELP!! This the 4th of July and we need to show some real ALOHA!

  • ““The rules didn’t work with me. Police try to scare you, but I welcome three hots and a cot,” said McCarroll, who has spent more than a decade of his life incarcerated.”

    Really flaunting it. Let’s make tent prison camps with sandwiches, fruits and veggies and water for all 3 meals. No smoking, drugs or alcohol. Work gangs to clean park restrooms and cut the grass on the freeways.

    • are we in Alabama in the 60s…work crew…really…how about dealing with their issues….if they in drug treatment or have mental health issues and want help…we should help them..geezz… they are fellow human being…many want help…and have been abandoned and are shamed already…you know friends, family who have gone thru tough times? sometimes, folks just don’t get the ohana support…so please show some kindness to your fellow man…a little aloha can go a looong way…Happy 4th!

      • But how do you help someone who doesn’t want the help? Sometimes tough love is the only option. I don’t see anything wrong with making them work a bit for their benefits. Can’t just keep giving them free stuff.

      • No doubt, everyone here has compassion. But compassion only lasts until the rest of us have to go to work to pay the bills, put the roof over the heads of ourselves and our families and pay taxes to put food in the stomachs of these guys. These guys are basically saying “I’m going to live a deadbeat life and you guys can’t stop me. And I’m going to poop and pee wherever I like too–what are you going to do about it?” You have to want to help yourself too, don’t you think?

      • We have hundreds of empty beds at our homeless shelters every night. If they want help, they can go to these shelters where they can get a bed, meals, counseling, and possibly medical. So tell me Hawaii_Boy, why aren’t they going to these shelters?

  • What is the point of giving them citations? I’m assuming that it comes with a fine they can’t or won’t pay so it’s a little more than toilet paper to a homeless person.

    • It gives the cops stats.

      Look at that poor cop in the picture. He had to walk at least 50 yards from his chair in the substation to the lifeguard stand on the beach in front of the substation to write and then hand the TP to the homeless guy. Who came back within 15 minutes.

      So, why can’t they make the lifeguard stands off limits like they do the civic center next to city hall?

  • The abundance of people turning into subhumans (=humans of subhuman behavior) is increasing steadily due to the absence of pressure on them.

  • The hotel industry here, in Hawaii, is a 15B a year(!) industry. It’s absurd that they don’t step up more. When ever I see Mufi involved I become suspicious. Not surprising he’s the bottleneck of funding. Check his pockets.Or maybe his off-shore accounts… It’s appalling that the good people of Hawaii ever let him near public funds.

  • I don’t see any in my neighborhood. Out of sight, out of mind. And now that “Train Wreck Mufi,” is a leading Waikiki tourism mouthpiece, watch that prime Hawaii tourism area “go down the flushing toilet”.

  • Solution:

    Homeless living on public property cited and transported to homeless court at Kaleloa

    Offered shelter bed or social services there at one of three tent city sites: One for those with substance abuse/mental issues, one for single men/couples, one for families. Services such as rehab, sanitation, job search, mental health care provided there.

    Stay optional, but every citation leads to a trip to Kapolei.

    Services limited to Hawaii residents of 5 years

    • I like that idea, but why limit it? So you’d leave people that aren’t HI residents still on the streets? That’s silly. I’d break it down differently; one facility for mental health issues, one for substance abuse, one for everybody else. People are homeless for different reasons, and need different kinds of help.

  • Let me sum these “efforts” up. Trying to get these people to be able to afford housing here through “programs” in Honolulu, is like me giving you $100 and telling you to go buy enough clothes for your family and dropping you off at Neiman Marcus to do it. Ain’t never gonna happen.

  • CADwell lied when he claimed he solved the homeless problem. His hateful harassment only moved them around, for a little while. So now he wants private security teams to harass the homeless even more? Take the homeless problem out of the hands of the politicians and get some real experts with proven success rates, give them more than adequate funding, and get out of their way.

  • didi robello said: “some are turning the beaches into their own personal outdoor toilet” “I’m pouring bleach every day”. bleach on public beaches?

  • Interesting how Caldwell makes his inspection a month before the primary election. This has been ongoing for four years (and longer)

  • I thought Caldwell was crowing how he has the problem licked with taking 70 people off the roads. Time for Caldwell to go. All the money wasted on the train could help these people.

      • My friend just got married and sent me a photo of the train’s unveiling. I shared the pic with my engineer colleagues in our home state of Texas. Gorgeous trains. But, I cautioned him about riding them with his wife and young daughter. Can you imagine riding it and some mentally imbalanced guy who is also on board starts to freak out due to a psychotic episode? Can you imagine being trapped in a capsule with this guy along with your loved ones with no means of escape because the train is in motion and the next station is far away?

  • The homeless are the soup de jour or flavor of the month for politicians like Caldwell and Hannemann and has become a pot of gold for those involved in working with the
    homeless like the Institute of Human Services who by the way pays their executive director and others very well. Not a bad racket if you can get it so many are getting in on the action
    to “wet their beak”. it is certainly a humanitarian issue which needs to be addressed but playing wackamole by chasing them from place to place is not helpful and a total waste of
    energy and money. Low income rental housing whether they be tents or containers need to be built and those able to work and or pay some form of rent needs to be a requirement
    for those who reside there. Those who refuse being housed and continue to opt to be homeless should be arrested and jailed. Any kind of state funded aid must be conditioned
    on doing community service work or being employed. No free loaders.
    This will discourage people from coming here to add to the homeless population. If you are not tough with these people, they will swarm Hawaii like locusts.

  • Waikiki should be designated a “special district” with additional enforcement measures. Many cities and towns in mainland have vagrancy laws that prohibit the homeless from being in certain places at any time. Waikiki needs that sort of enforcement to keep the homeless from taking over public parks and facilities.
    That tent city option is looking better everyday isn’t it Kirk?

  • It won’t be long before stories of feces and piss on the beaches of Waikiki hit the worldwide press. Just what our tourism industry needs. Where is Gov. Ige on this? He needs to get off his butt and do something about this now! He has been missing in action!

  • When will the citizens of Honolulu realize that the rights of a few (homeless bums) don’t override the rights of the majority of the city? We as taxpayers are already footing the bill for these bums ( welfare, free medical at any Hospital ER ) free food from the bleeding hearts and free rent on the sidewalks, beach or under the freeway. Force them off the streets, those with mental issues need to be in a safe place for them and us. Those who can work, put them to work cleaning up the city & county and erect a tent city for them to crash at. Make them pay rent and as they move up, help them find a home/apartment to live in when they are able to support themselves. enough of giving them a free ride.

  • Problem is a lot of States give their homeless a 1 way airline ticket to Honolulu. I know I’ve seen and had an experience w/ one not to mention conversations I’ve had w/ a “few” homeless individuals.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up