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3 Kakaako parks swept of homeless


    Homeless people queued up at the corner of Ilalo and Cooke streets as state crews and officials cleared the area of homeless dwellings and belongings Sunday at Kakaako Waterfront Park. State officials have closed the park indefinitely as they cope with the growing homeless epidemic in Hawaii.

Maintenance crews arrived at three parks at sunrise Monday with leaf blowers, grass cutters and rakes following a late-night sweep where state deputy sheriffs removed dozens of homeless people from their encampments.

Sixteen deputy sheriffs cleared out fewer than 100 homeless people who remained illegally camping at Kakaako Waterfront, Gateway and Kewalo Basin parks Sunday night — a week after the state announced that all three parks were to be closed to the public indefinitely because of safety concerns. About 180 people had been illegally camping at the parks.

No-trespassing signs were posted at park gates Monday, and sheriff vehicles were situated at entry points at Kakaako Waterfront Park.

No arrests were made during the sweep, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

“Sheriffs will continue to conduct frequent patrols of the Kakaako area throughout the day and night as part of their normal procedure,” said DPS spokeswoman Toni Schwartz when asked what will be done to ensure trespassers are kept out during the closure.

On Monday, after the parks had been cleared, about a dozen homeless people moved their tents, tarps and belongings to sidewalks on Ohe and Olomehani streets, not far from Kakaako Waterfront and Gateway parks.

Sitting on a folded blanket on the sidewalk, Dayna Maiolu, 42, who has lived at the park for the past few months, said, “Many of us can’t go to shelters because of our pets. We are not willing to give them up.”

On the mauka sidewalk of Ohe Street, Baby Filisi, 38, who has lived at the park for almost two years, moved her tent and belongings next to a chain-link fence. “Every day we have to start again and again and again when they do sweep,” Filisi said. “We’re trying to step up, too. We don’t like this life over here.”

State homeless coordinator Scott Morishige said outreach workers from organizations including the Institute for Human Services, Kalihi-Palama Health Center, Hale Naau Pono and Care Hawaii were on hand Sunday afternoon through the evening to help those displaced.

“It really takes a concerted effort of outreach so we can get people off the streets and get them to a place of stability,” Morishige said Monday morning as he stood near Gateway Park.

From Tuesday to Sunday night, outreach workers helped 32 people, including families with young children, get into various shelters. Morishige said a number of programs other than emergency shelters are available to assist with housing, such as city and state Housing First initiatives.

The Institute for Human Services, Next Step Shelter and Onelauena Shelter at Barbers Point were among the shelters where Kakaako homeless were placed. Mo­rishige also said one woman was placed at the Waianae Civic Center, which is operated by U.S. Vets. Four people were placed into permanent housing.

Morishige said he and other outreach workers will continue today to assist the homeless who may be in the area of Kakaako Waterfront Park.

There were several other people who declined offers of going to a shelter or using other social services. “For those individuals we are going to continue to make the effort to offer those services to people even though they are not currently in the park,” he added.

Meanwhile the Hawaii Community Development Authority, the state agency that oversees the three parks, is assessing damage to the grounds from vandalism and the encampments. Estimated at $500,000, HCDA spokesman Garett Kamemoto said the agency plans to meet with vendors for an exact cost. “It’s going to take a few days.”

Reports of fires, dog attacks and vandalism prompted the closure of the parks indefinitely. There was visible damage to underground electrical vaults at the promenade at Kakaako Waterfront Park on Monday morning.

Inside a tentlike structure, a Panasonic window air conditioner was surrounded by boards.

“Anytime someone is tampering with the electricity, there’s a significant health hazard there,” Kamemoto said.

Workers disposed of about 15 truckloads of trash and stored more than 20 bins of property left behind — each bin equivalent to the size of a container used for curbside recycling.

Crews are expected to return to the parks today to continue cleanup efforts.

Later this month the Department of Transportation plans to conduct a sweep of a homeless encampment under the Nimitz viaduct. Morishige said cleanup operations are tentatively set for Oct. 23; however, they are still in the planning stages.

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