comscore Bills would create official campgrounds for the homeless | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Hawaii News

Bills would create official campgrounds for the homeless

Honolulu Star-Advertiser logo
Unlimited access to premium stories for as low as $12.95 /mo.
Get It Now

    Homeless people camped outside of construction barriers surrounding Thomas Square park on Jan. 26 at the intersection of Victoria and Young streets. Lawmakers are considering bills for homeless encampments in designated areas.

State lawmakers are considering bills to create official campgrounds for the homeless in Honolulu, an approach that is being strongly opposed by state Homelessness Coordinator Scott Morishige and the state Department of Human Services.

Measures scheduled for hearings today and Friday would instruct Gov. David Ige’s administration to create “puuhonua safe zones” where homeless people would be allowed to camp. The zones would remain in place until the Legislature determines that homelessness is no longer a crisis in Hawaii.

House Bill 83 and Senate Bill 1223 would also require that each safe zone be furnished with appropriate hygiene facilities, and would be staffed with security and social service workers as needed. The “peaceful consumption of alcoholic beverages” would be allowed in the safe zones, according to the bills.

The Senate Human Services Committee on Wednesday gave tentative approval to Senate Bill 1243, which would authorize the state to use part of Sand Island State Recreation Area and to seek out an unspecified property in Hawaii Kai as homeless campsites.

The House Human Services Committee also held a hearing Wednesday on House Bill 1447, which would establish campgrounds for the homeless on vacant government lands. Lawmakers plan to decide the fate of that bill on Feb. 15.

Those ideas don’t sit well with the Ige administration. Morishige said Hawaii has already tried the campsite approach, and learned that homeless camps become unsafe for residents once they grow to a certain size. They also raise concerns about health and sanitation, he said.

He cited the example of Aala Park in the early 1990s when the city allowed homeless people to camp there, and a number of violent incidents involving residents followed. A more recent experience involved a large homeless encampment that sprang up in Kakaako, which by 2015 had grown to have 300 people living there.

State Rep. Tom Brower (D, Waikiki-Ala Moana-Kakaako) was attacked and injured during a visit to the Kakaako camp, and both the Aala and Kakaako camps were finally dismantled by authorities.

Morishige said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has taken a strong stance against legalizing homeless encampments, and instead steers states toward providing permanent housing for the homeless. He said state policies should be consistent with national best practices on the issue.

“We’re really focusing on how can we move people off the streets as quickly as possible and into permanent homes,” he said. “We want to make sure with the limited resources available that we have to address homelessness that we’re able to focus on … permanent housing, that we focus the limited resources that we have on evidence-based programs like Housing First that we know are proven to be effective.”

The longer-term state strategy involves creating more affordable housing, Morishige said.

Senate Human Services Chairman Josh Green said he plans to press ahead with SB 1243 to create one or two small-scale pilot homeless campsites. He said he made the recommendation for a Hawaii Kai site because the bill came from the Hawaii Kai community.

Mike Goodman, director of the Hawaii Kai Homeless Task Force, is strongly in favor of the campsite idea and said he drafted an early version of the bill. Goodman said camps offer a cost-effective way to provide shelter for people who don’t want to live in official homeless shelters.

However, Goodman’s testimony suggested the Sand Island recreation area or vacant government lands at the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station and Mapunapuna might be suitable locations for campsites. Goodman said he didn’t propose Hawaii Kai because campsites make more sense in industrial areas than residential neighborhoods, but said he has no objection to Green’s proposal.

Green said lawmakers generally support the approach the Ige administration is taking to deal with homelessness, but “from my perspective, it’s not one size fits all, so we might need to have some other options for housing people, especially people with chronic homelessness, drug addiction and other issues.”

He added, “We don’t want to go back in time to when there were very large encampments and that project didn’t really work, but we do want other options for them in case they have to house people, so we’ll pass the bill.”

Decision-making by the Senate Housing Committee on SB 1243 is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. today in Room 225 of the state Capitol. That committee will also decide today how to proceed with SB 1223, another measure that would require the Ige administration to create campgrounds for the homeless.

The House Human Services Committee is scheduled to hold a separate hearing on HB 83 at 9:30 a.m. Friday in Room 329.

Comments (40)

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


    • The legislature just seems endlessly silly and inept. Ige is right: We need housing and shelter arrangements staffed. No camping out. Legislature here is just horrible.

    • Homeless campgrounds would work.

      Politically, it is not a good idea, but pragmatically, it will work.

      It will get all the homeless to congregate in one place. If the State provides a monitored hygiene center and security, it will keep the area relatively clean.

      When the homeless are all in one place, it will be easier to provide them with services. By keeping the homeless in one place, it will also keep the residential neighborhoods and businesses happy because they will get their sidewalks back again.

      It will be like that episode in The Wire when they created “Hamsterdam,” an area where gangsters could sell drugs and the police wouldn’t crack down on them. Overall crime went down and all the citizens were happy because it got the gangsters out of their neighborhoods.

      • Yes!! Campsites immediately to get them off the street–won’t cost too much to set up. Homeless provide their own tent,or sleep under the stars as they desire.
        Then when the City and State finally get around to it affordable housing

  • The problem is that homelessness isn’t just one problem. It has to be dealt with on multiple fronts. The solutions are different if someone is on the streets because they are poor, they are crazy, they are a drug addict, or because they just happen to like living on the streets. Such a camp would be a magnet for all of them. Hope the state can sort them out.

    • FINALLY, an INTELLIGENT comment !! You speak the truth, as homelessness is not a simple problem that has simple solutions. Intelligence and compassion are need to solve the problem. BOTH are in short supply when it comes to the Ige Administration and the Legislature. Those idiots are more concerned with their re-election prospects and images than solving ANY problems.

      • Try walking through Iolani Palace and the main Library. I would guess there are about 50 homeless residing on the grounds. Add another 50 loitering around downtown Ross and Bishop Square. Add the 75 camped out around IHS and Aala Park. Nearly all of these downtown homeless appear to be recent transplants from the mainland. We need to somehow stop the influx of homeless “tourists” and then we can start dealing with the problem. These feel good initiatives which give more resources to the homeless are not working. Help the local homeless and working poor and send the homeless visitors back to the mainland.

        • The people in the areas you talk about don’t look like homeless tourists. They look more like homeless locals.

  • The chronically homeless should be given relocation assistance and a cash payout when they relocate to a new home on the mainland, preferably one with a lower cost of living where the homeless will have an actual shot at self-sufficiency (unlike Hawaii, where they and their kids will be wards of the State, forever dependent on handouts like kept animals in a zoo).

  • This will be hilarious… a homeless camp in Hawaii Kai? BWAHAHAHAA. Making campgrounds legal for homeless encampments is one of the most ridiculous ideas surfaced to date. What ever happened to that homeless village that was supposed to be built out by Ke’ehi Lagoon? Did that flop too? That was likely the only promising project to actually get the homeless into housing.

  • I support the idea, with a few added provisions and unofficial cooperation from partners in the maritime industry.

    The camps are a phenomenal idea, and should be in contained multiple open-air areas across the island. Ideally, the main camps would be located near to a dock.

    Allow an anything-goes policy to attract as many vagrants as possible, with occupants free to engage in any behavior they choose–drinking, using/selling/manufacturing drugs and paraphernalia, public indecency (urination, defecation, sexual congress, just like on Waikiki beach!) and any other deviant or unsanitary activities that they now enjoy putting on public display all across our state.

    And then, when the camps appears to be at near full occupancy, in the middle of a weekday night and completely off the record, have a joint homeless city task force (HPD, EMS, municipal labor) simultaneously seal off the entire camp to prevent escape, have plain-clothes officers raid the camp and zip tie every single occupant, chuck them in city buses or prisoner transport vehicles, escort them to the docks where a large cargo ship would be waiting, and quickly and quietly ship them off to MICRONESIA.

    Once there, and preferably at Chuuk, deposit all of the vagrants on the beach and turn the boat around.

    1) Homeless problem significantly reduced.

    2) Mysterious disappearance causes panic among remaining vagrants and potential new vagrants in the mainland catch wind of this and re-think their plans to fly here.

    3) Micronesians get a taste of their own medicine. Half the vagrants dumped there would probably be COFA squatters, anyway. Now they can stop singing about going home.

    You can thank me later.


    Future Governor of the State of Hawaii

      • Well, I originally suggested we turn Kahoolawe into a homeless colony with free batu, Budweiser and knives and put it on paperview (I’ll show Trump who the REAL King of Reality TV is!) but city leaders apparently felt that wasn’t cost effective, and we all know how very careful our city leaders are about staying within budgets.

        No worries, maybe I’ll run for mayor first. Appoint Billy Kenoi as my budget director, Tom Brower as my homeless czar, Mufi as my head of security operations and start issuing secret executive initiatives including the launch of covert Operation Pilau, where me and my new team go Korean bar, get nasty drunk and bill it to our P-Cards, then hit Waikiki beach and beat the living hell out of homeless vagrants until they’re beginning for relocation assistance.

        Frank Fasi ain’t got nothing on me.

  • Great idea since there’s a huge amount of unused grassy areas around the state capitol and the Kalanimoku building. Setting up homeless encampments there would allow the homeless people to just walk into the buildings to use the public restroom facilities and, possibly, have lunch with their representatives in the legislature.

  • I’ve got my best idea yet! Since our illustrious city leadership can’t seem to somehow get our zoo accredited (or find someone willing to run it for more than 48 hours), why not just send all those poor animals to nature preserves somewhere and turn the zoo into a homeless camp!

    Only catch is, once the vagrants enter, they aren’t allowed to leave! Kind of like those steel cage rat traps. Easy to enter, impossible to get out, and make sure none of the new residents have cell phones so they can’t warn their friends or call Action Line.

    Set up observation cameras for a city website, which will lives stream footage (and generate more ad revenue than the rail ever will) and once a day, toss in crates full of meth, cheap vodka, sharp objects and porn.

    Then, build observation decks high above the zoo where parents can bring their children or schools can have field trip outings.

    “See, Suzie? This is where you’ll end up if you have sex before senior year.”

    “No, mommy, I don’t want to grow up to be a crack-head. I’ll eat all my vegetables, promise!”

    “Now, class, take a guess how many of the savages you see below you cheated on their book reports. That’s right, all of them!”

    Holy moly, I’m going to be President one day.

    Hope I can count on your vote.

  • This is very similar to my tent city idea. Just put fencing around the campgrounds and round up all the homeless and put them in there. The only way they could leave would be to agree to enter a shelter and start the training process to re-enter society.

  • I support campgrounds for the homeless and a public garden for them to grow food and feed themselves, but I do not support alcohol and drugs. Not all homeless are alcoholic and druggies. Many simply can’t afford the high rents that are not commensurate with wages. This would give people a chance toward mental rehabilitation as homelessness and dependency are so demeaning. I used to be homeless and now I am growing my own garden and feeling pride in my good work and feeding myself partially from my garden. A friend of a friend of mine has started a project in California to house the homeless in gardening communities. Also, the idea of tiny houses is a good starter as tents can be blown down or blown away in gusty winds and soaked in heavy rain. I know that from experience. As for the alcoholics and drug addicts they need to undergo rehab. I would not support housing them in homeless camps as they ruin it for all the decent working people who can’t afford housing. Or they should be houses in separate rehab camps just for them.

  • Why is the barrier so high? Is the mayor trying to hide ongoing construction? Perhaps his information kiosk, where more tents can be erected after hours? The mayor wants more activities in the park as a deterrent to the homeless influx. Why not just close the restrooms and water supply at night?

    • According to Krook Caldwell they only ID they need to carry is their voter registration card with “D”onkey bubbled in to get a free pass to all kinds of entitlements all paid for by the rest of us.

  • Homeless campsite in Honolulu are needed but plan it carefully before opening. To start only tents can be use and NOT build out of wooden crates or other steel, wood or other building material. Provide enough port-a-potties and temporary shower but not any permanent building fixtures. Start to build a security and management team by hiring level headed, drug and mental illness free homeless that will take pride in their homeless community. security should not be HPD or sheriffs popping by every 4 hours rather responsible homeless leaders who will keep drugs, heavy drinker, bullies and problem people at bay. If some become a problem then kick them out backed up by sheriff and HPD and ban them from all these City/State sponsored homeless encampments. Counselors and outreach will work with these hired homeless to create a bridge and allow these homeless camps to get kind of big but still rules and regulations are maintained and the peer pressure for people to follow the basic campsite rules or get kicked out will be mostly enforced by these campsite managers and staff who are homeless themselves.

    • PS: And for those who refuse to use the campsites and instead set up camps in unacceptable areas, HPD with canines can provide ‘gentle persuasion’ by waking them up every hour to “see if they are okay” and run noisy sidewalk cleaning machines in the middle of the night that get their tent and the people inside soaking wet. After a while they will give up and move to a more acceptable place to set up their tents.

  • Establishing camp grounds for the homeless would work as long as toilet and shower facilities are provided in addition to medical clinics and 24 hr security
    by special duty police or Sheriffs if the camp is located on state property. Rules will have to be put in place and enforced.
    The reason the past attempts did not work was because they did not provide the necessary support services and security and no one was in charge
    which only invited chaos to ensue.
    it appears to me that the reason Scott Morishige and DHS are opposed because they are concerned that these efforts will drain away financial support and
    resources from the program for the homeless that they currently operate. For some time now, different groups claiming to work with the homeless have been
    wetting their beaks at the tax supported trough and given that millions of dollars have been spent already in trying to address the homeless problem and more millions of tax payer money have been promised it has become a rather lucrative business to be in. One example is the Institute of Human Services which operates two homeless shelters and provides outreach services. It has come a long way from the peanut butter ministry started by Father Claude DuTeil in 1978.
    It is now big business and pays their director a six figure salary and with all the staff that is required, it requires a lot of money to operate and they also may
    not want service contracts they now receive from the State and City to lessen because of the move to establish homeless campsites.
    Obviously, these camp sites are just a temporary solution and need to be coupled with placing these people in rental housing, probably public housing projects
    which are a long way from even being built. In addition to housing, these individuals will need jobs and or job training and all the related services or they will never
    become self sufficient and will remain permanently on the dole and be an ever growing underclass.
    The irony of a place like Hawaii is that we spend a great deal of money enticing people to come here to feed our tourist industry. This also has the side effect of
    enticing the homeless and permanent underclass of other states and US territories like Micronesia to come here as well so we will never be able to come close
    to solving the homeless problem.
    The political class should seriously consider letting it be known that if you are of the homeless or permanent underclass elsewhere, do not come to Hawaii
    as it is not the paradise they think.

  • It’s frustrating to see so many mainland people who are homeless. Maybe they come here for the weather. Maybe their expectations of job, finances and housing were not met. Nevertheless, local people who have been priced out of their housing lose benefits to immigrants. And, if they build it, they will come!

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