The state will begin regularly enforcing park closures in Kakaako Makai “regardless of housing status,” Gov. David Ige said today, as some of the area’s parks reopened to the public three weeks after sprawling homeless encampments were cleared.
Ige said the Hawaii Community Development Authority, the state agency that manages the parks, is looking to contract a private security firm next month to provide homeless outreach services and removal and storage of property in addition to security.
“The security contractor will be doing all of those things which will allow us to, when the parks close, enforce the park closure hours,” Ige told reporters. “We need to provide the homeless the opportunity to move to a shelter, we need to make sure that shelter space is available, and that if they do have personal property, then we are obligated to store that.”
Jesse Souki, HCDA’s executive director, said he hopes to have the security contract in place by Nov. 17. In the meantime, state sheriff’s deputies will continue to provide security at the parks.
“We’d like to not have the parks go back to what it was and we have strategies in place to prevent that until our new contract is in place,” Souki said.
Earlier this month, the state shut down Kakaako Waterfront Park, Kakaako Gateway Park and Kewalo Basin Park. An estimated 180 homeless people were swept out of the parks after officials said they caused an estimated half-million dollars in damage to plumbing, power poles and landscaping.
Kewalo Basin and Kakaako Gateway parks were reopened today along with the Point Panic area of Kakaako Waterfront Park. Waterfront Park and its parking lot remain closed as the state continues repair work.
Park hours are from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. for Gateway Park and Point Panic, and from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. for Kewalo Basin Park.
Ige said the stepped-up park-closure enforcement and the pending security contract will ensure “we can keep the parks open to the public during the hours that it is open and make sure that it’s closed to the public and everyone regardless of housing status during the times when the park is closed.”