A special city clean-up crew that normally clears homeless encampments from city sidewalks expanded its duties this morning to break down a knot of tents and structures on grassy medians along state-owned Nimitz Highway.
A convoy of nine city trucks and police vehicles moved into Awa Street just at 8:30 a.m. without notice, but gave several homeless occupants 30 minutes to remove personal items before crews began hauling out what remained, including a bucket full of human waste.
The move by the city represents a further expansion of Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s “compassionate disruption” philosophy to clear tents and structures from the grassy medians along Nimitz Highway that belong to the state Department of Transportation and came to represent one of the first impressions for tourists heading into Waikiki from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.
But some of the homeless who were swept this morning said they’ll just set up shop in someone else’s neighborhood.
Thinh Nguyen, 51, has been living in a tent on the Nimitz Highway median at Awa Street “for a couple of months” and had no idea where he would go next.
“I don’t know,” he said, “Ala Moana (Beach Park), I guess.”
The city clean-up crew had just finished its usual route enforcing the city’s stored property and sidewalk nuisance ordinances in nearby Iwilei when they moved into Awa Street.
Honolulu police Cpl. Leland Cadoy, who escorts the clean-up crew, said he was greeted with the same question he’s received before from homeless occupants. “When can we come back?” Cadoy quoted them as saying.
Cadoy gave his stock reply: “That’s up to you,” he said. “It’s not up to us to say yes or no.”
Caldwell previously told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the new approach, without the usual 24-hour notice, was in response to an imminent “health and safety issue” because the homeless were living amid one of Honolulu’s busiest traffic corridors.