Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Tuesday, July 16, 2024 77° Today's Paper

Hawaii News

Homeless blocked from traffic triangle

Swipe or click to see more


The city has erected barriers and signs prohibiting people from inhabiting the pedestrian island at the corner of Atkinson Drive and Ala Moana Boulevard, a gateway to Waikiki.

Government agencies finally advanced in their highly visible battle to clear homeless campers from the traffic triangle at the intersection of Ala Moana Boulevard and Atkinson Drive.

Leilani Espiritu, 50, and Keoki Nakanelua, 53, who had occupied the state median for the better part of a year, were nowhere to be seen on Friday. Their shopping carts, tarps and other belongings had been replaced by planter boxes, government property signage and bright orange plastic cones and netting.

“The state Department of Transportation supplied the planters from the airport. We installed them and erected signs and fencing on Thursday,” said city spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke. “This is similar to the approach that we used at Thomas Square park.”

The city used landscape planter boxes in 2013 to prevent the tents of (de)Occupy Honolulu members from returning to sidewalks along nearby Beretania and King streets in Thomas Square park.

Waikiki Neighborhood Board President Bob Finley said he hopes government will continue to stay ahead of the cat-and-mouse game at the Ala Moana/ Atkinson corner, which is a gateway to Waikiki, the state’s top tourist district.

“This concept worked when Mayor Frank Fasi used it to block T-shirt vendors on Kalakaua Avenue,” Finley said. “After they were installed, police could come and cite vendors for being too close to the curb … I think this will be effective, but maybe they should consider planting cactus in those boxes.”

Finley said he’s not unsympathetic to the plight of homeless individuals. However, they can’t be allowed to hurt tourism, which pays for many of the services that are available to help them get into shelters or housing.

“If they continue to chop away at the visitor industry, we won’t have the money to support them,” he said.

City and state officials signed a right-of-entry agreement on Aug. 12, and it wasn’t long before Honolulu police and state Department of Transportation workers evicted the couple. The agreement allowed the city to enforce stored property and nuisance ordinances on the traffic island where DOT had failed to make progress. But later that night, the couple were camped out on the small concrete patch that city crews had cleared and cleaned earlier in the day. The couple has been occupying the site, off and on, since then.

Waikiki Neighborhood Board member Jeff Merz said it’s past time for urban Honolulu to get relief from spreading homelessness.

“I would call DOT about the median and they would tell me that they only do those cleanups twice a year,” Merz said. “It was really frustrating. The state needs to step up. I don’t think its sustainable for the city to take over all their responsibility.”

Gov. David Ige should sign an executive order to enforce clearing sidewalks and state traffic zones from homeless campers, Merz said.

“I’m impressed with what they did in Kakaako. If they can do it there, why can’t they do it at a tiny traffic island?” Merz said. “It’s absurd when people are allowed to make a mockery of government.”

Justin Phillips, outreach field manager for the Institute for Human Services, said social service providers are working with government to close gaps like the one at the Ala Moana/Atkinson median and elsewhere.

“When the city goes out, the state and social service providers need to be there,” Phillips said. “There are places where only an inch separate city and state ownership. If you move your tent an inch, you are in the city and the county and the state can’t do anything. We all have to work together.”

23 responses to “Homeless blocked from traffic triangle”

  1. serious says:

    Finally the wheels of progress to improve that intersection. The couple staying there, as people who walk that area daily can tell you, was just the latest of a series of homeless rotating there–this has been going on for years and years. What a blight for our tourists AND locals.

    • AmbienDaze says:

      Kudos to Rep Tom Brower for bringing attention to the homeless problem. Prior to the incident in Kakaako, it seemed like nobody in government cared. Now everybody is on the band wagon. Ige declares a state of emergency for homelessness. I guess better late than never…

      Thank you Rep Brower!

  2. kekelaward says:

    Tomorrow’s big story: “Theft of planters, cones and orange netting from well known traffic island”

    PS There were a couple of homeless people camping on the sidewalk on Beretania in front of Thomas Square for the past couple of days. They have their blue tarp covered carts and all. The cops must drive past there hundreds of times a day, but no one does anything.

  3. localguy says:

    City/state need to restart the program to buy airline tickets home for those homeless who would like to go back. A very small price to pay to reduce the numbers, an effective program.

    Continue getting aggressive right back at those loser homeless who thumb there noses at our rules and laws, thinking they have a right to live anywhere they want. Losers to the core.

  4. Maipono says:

    As persistent and frustrating the homeless are, I am always amazed how people who are so resourceful and creative can’t or don’t want to contribute to society by doing productive work. It is almost as if they want to make a statement that they can do this just because they can, and if you don’t like it, that’s your problem. They basically are chronic law breakers with little consequence because the punishment is better than their condition. So if we do what Duke Aiona suggested, having a homeless court, that might be the answer, the punishment would be to take away their freedom by requiring them to set up their tents at designated homeless encampments with adequate hygiene facilities and transitioning programs to help them to become productive, working individuals again. If they attempt to set up on the street again, all their possessions should be discarded immediately as a penalty for breaking the law.

  5. livinginhawaii says:

    No excuse for not arresting criminals who either steal shopping carts or are in possession of stolen shopping carts. The head cop in charge of this precinct needs to be flat out fired. Simple as that.

  6. reamesr1 says:

    Merz said. “It’s absurd when people are allowed to make a mockery of government.” Mr. Merz Politicians have been making a mockery of government for years whats new.

  7. wrightj says:

    …and how long before it’s dismantled? We have vandals here, too.

  8. samidunn says:

    What a sorry state of affairs

  9. iwanaknow says:

    Nothing will happen til you complain to your elected representatives……again, again and again…………not just shooting off sparks in this electronic chatter/posts.

  10. dtpro1 says:

    A day late and a dollar short…this situation should have been cleared up in days, not years. Auwe to our City and State govt.

  11. Too_Much_Pilikia says:

    Why is the gov’t spending all this money as a deterrence rather than arrest the repeat offenders? A very silly cat and mouse game is being played at the expense of the taxpayer.

    • hilo says:

      this homeless couple has made fools out of our city/state bureaucrats with their street-wise survival skills. we should hire them (leilani and keoki) as consultants to create solutions for this mess. the mon-fri 9-5 bureaucrats don’t get it. they have failed us (again). auwe…..

  12. Death_By_Snu_Snu says:

    See Mr. Trump, we just need to build more walls to keep the lawbreakers out. It will work!

  13. Oahuan says:

    Does the city and state gov’t plan to leave the orange fence and planters their permanently? Because it’s an sore eye sight. Once they remove it the homeless people will be back. And then what? What an inept government we have. AND YET THE SAME PEOPLE WILL GET ELECTED AGAIN.

  14. retire says:

    That’s how Fasi would have handled it. God I miss him!

Leave a Reply