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Kakaako homeless say planned sweep won’t keep them out of area parks

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One-year-old Jayce sits outside a relative’s tent today set up along the parking lot at Kakaako Waterfront Park. The family said they don’t know where they’ll go when the park closes.

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Large encampments of homeless people have returned to Kakaako Waterfront Park. Park officials say they can no longer ensure the safety of park users following a recent series of dog bites, fires and vandalism attributed to an estimated 180 homeless people living along the Kakaako shoreline.

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Chelsey Mauga, 31, at her makeshift residence along the ocean walkway atKakaako Waterfront Park. Large encampments of homeless people have returned to the park.

Several of the estimated 180 homeless people camping along the Kakaako waterfront today said Sunday night’s planned sweep — followed by an indefinite closure of the nearby state parks for repairs — will not deter homeless people from coming back.

“No, no, no, no,” said Chelsey Mauga, 31, who has been living in and around Kakaako Waterfront Park for three years. “Of course not.”

All of the people interviewed today by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, such as Mauga, were prepared to be swept Sunday when the park closes at 10 p.m. But none of them had a clue where they will go next.

“Where are we going to go?” said Anthony Olshefski, 66, who’s been living in a tent next to the University of Hawaii Cancer Center for the last four months. “We’ve got no place to go.”

Mauga, like others, had no faith that Sunday night’s indefinite closures of Kakaako Waterfront Park and the adjacent Gateway and Kewalo Basin parks will keep homeless people from returning.

“It’s just the same old, same old,” Mauga said outside her encampment on the Ewa end of Kakaako Waterfront Park, which offered a stunning ocean view.

Asked how many times she’s been swept since 2014, Mauga said, “Too much times. I don’t have enough fingers on my hands.”

Jesse Souki, CEO and executive director of the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which manages the parks, told the Star-Advertiser on Tuesday that the parks have to be closed indefinitely out of safety concerns and to repair vandalized plumbing and electrical poles and to restore the lawns damaged by homeless encampments.

“Right now, with dog attacks and exposed wires and broken plumbing, it’s just not safe,” Souki said. “We need to shut it down and take a pause.”

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