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Growing homeless camp is cleared out in Kakaako

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A Harbor Police vehicle drove by homeless people’s belongings Friday after a sweep by state officials along Forrest Avenue in Kakaako near the Next Step shelter.

State sheriff’s deputies Friday kicked out 55 to 65 homeless people who had set up camp outside Kakaako’s Next Step homeless shelter after being swept out of nearby Kakaako Waterfront Park in early October.

“There have been people there on and off over the years,” said Garett Kamemoto, spokesman for the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which manages Kakaako Waterfront Park and its sister parks. “It got bigger when the park closed.”

The new homeless encampments blocked trucks and other traffic from getting to Re-use Hawaii and Next Step.

The alley sits between Pier 1 and a parking lot used by University of Hawaii medical students, staff and faculty on the Diamond Head side.

“That entire strip was full of tents and a couple of cars and animals,” said Tina Shelton, spokeswoman for the UH medical school. “Within days of the closure of Kakaako park, they began to assemble there.”

Nearby Coral Street also was cleared of encampments and abandoned vehicles Friday morning. Some homeless people began migrating into neighboring streets by the afternoon.

Seven people who were swept Friday morning went into homeless shelters, said Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator.

He called Friday’s sweeps part of Gov. David Ige’s efforts “to maintain public spaces for public access, as well as issues of public safety,” adding, “There were health and safety concerns in the encampments as well as obstructions for trucks unloading at the commercial harbors.”

Sheriff’s deputies will return to the H-1 freeway viaduct area Monday to clear an estimated 70 people who moved with at least 20 dogs to a nearby bike path after being forced from underneath the viaduct Oct. 23.

The bike path, on the mauka side of the viaduct, will be closed from Middle to Ahua streets beginning at 8 a.m. until around Dec. 15 to clean up the encampments, Morishige said.

The Nimitz viaduct area has since been enclosed by a fence provided by the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation for a HART storage yard.

Since the bike path is intended for public use, there will be no fence to keep people out. Instead, Morishige said crews with the state Department of Transportation will need to report homeless activity to sheriff’s deputies.

In Kakaako, DOT crews installed a gate at the entrance of the alley that was cleared Friday. The gate will be controlled by DOT staff, Morishige said.

Anyone wanting to get to Next Step or Re-use Hawaii will have to drive down Keawe Street near the UH medical school.

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