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Homeless in Hawaii: City clearing Kakaako parks

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Derek Stabilio walked near his belongings Monday, on Olomehani Street in Kakaako. The city was scheduled to clear the homeless from Ilalo and Ohe streets Monday night.

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Honolulu City and County crews quickly swept the area of Kakaako on Monday night once controlled by the HCDA. Items left behind in the wake of the homeless were put in a garbage truck.

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Homeless on Olomehani Street in Kakaako quickly gathered their belonging on Monday night as city and county crew appproach for a sweep of the area once controlled by the HCDA.

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Homeless on llalo Street in Kakaako quickly gathered their belonging on Monday night as city and county crew appproach for a sweep of the area once controlled by the HCDA. Here, Gerald Leavy speaks with a police officer.

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Junior Quiral, right, adjusted his bicycle seat on Olomehani Street in Kakaako as he and neighbors prepared to move Monday night.

Thirty to 50 people who have been living along the streets and parks in Kakaako Makai were anticipating being rousted from their campsites by city crews late Monday night, and while they’re not happy about it, frequent parkgoers applauded the change in policy that will allow the sweep.

Derek Stabilio, who gave his age as “about 50” and who has been living on the streets and in the parks of Kakaako since it had a fish auction decades ago, wasn’t sure where he was going to end up.

“They told us go past Aloha Tower or past Ala Moana,” Stabilio said. “Where? Your guess is as good as mine.”

Stabilio and others have been warned for days that a crew from the city Department of Facility Maintenance and Honolulu Police Department officers were scheduled to clear both Kakaako area parks and sidewalks after park closure hours at 10 p.m. Monday. It marked the first time that the city would step onto the now state-owned parks to enforce park closure hours, something made possible by a new agreement between the state and city.

DFM staff are tasked with enforcing the city’s sidewalk nuisance and stored property ordinances, which require sidewalks to be clear for pedestrian traffic at all hours. They do so with HPD standing by as backup. HPD officers now have the authority to step onto Kakaako Waterfront Park and three other state parks and remove people after the parks close at 10 p.m.

For years, homeless individuals being kicked off city sidewalks in Kakaako by city crews simply stepped into nearby state park property knowing they were hands-off to city crews. But the Hawaii Community Development Authority recently agreed to give city crews the authority to enter four Kakaako parks and enforce park closure and other laws.

Besides the 25-acre Kakaako Waterfront Park, the city will now have enforcement authority over the smaller Kakaako Gateway Mauka Park adjacent to Ala Moana Boulevard, Kakaako Gateway Makai Park and Kewalo Basin Park.

A vote on a permanent transfer of the four parks — which total about 41 acres — is on the agenda of HCDA’s meeting Wednesday, said Gar­ett Kamemoto, the agency’s interim executive director.

As part of the anticipated transfer, the state is agreeing to pay through June 30, 2019, a $660,000 annual contract to the firm Block by Block, which provides 24-hour security and maintenance at the facilities.

Marc Alexander, executive director of the city’s Office of Housing, said Monday afternoon that there are “several hundred” shelter beds available on the island and that social workers had been speaking to the homeless for several weeks in advance of Monday night.

Stabilio, however, said he refuses to live by the rules imposed by shelters, and is waiting for a safe zone to move into. One of Stabilio’s friends said he tried to check into a nearby shelter and was put on a wait list.

“We’re not doing anything wrong; we’re not criminals,” Stabilio said. “It would be nice to be treated like a human being for once.”

But Liliha resident Kimo Kanakaole, 40, said he doesn’t understand why the state and city let jurisdictional issues stop the government from sweeping the area effectively any sooner.

“That was kind of foolish,” said Kanakaole, who’s been bodysurfing at Point Panic, right next to Kakaako Waterfront Park, practically since he was a baby. “Hopefully, they can do something now.”

Pearl City resident Casey Wond, 20, and Moanalua resident Blaise Leong, 19, said they’ve noticed the homeless situation improving at Kakaako Waterfront since the state shut it down for a time for maintenance. There used to be “homeless cats, children, dogs and people,” Wond said.

The two fish throughout the South Shore but won’t fish at night at Diamond Head anymore because they and another friend were threatened by a man who waved around a large knife and threatened to cut them.

Moanalua resident Patrick Doi, 68, said he likes the idea of ensuring the homeless follow park rules but wants to know where they will go next. “They always like to stay by the water,” said Doi, 68.

Having “one authority, under one set of rules, it makes it far more efficient for us to move through the area,” city Facility Maintenance Director Ross Sasamura said. “Under the previous regime we had multiple authorities, multiple property owners. We had to do a coordinated enforcement which at times became difficult to get all the resources in place at the same time.”

HCDA was never set up to manage parks, and the transfer should have occurred years ago, Sasamura said.

Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who represents the Kakaako district along with Councilwoman Carol Fuku­naga, said she has mixed feelings about the city’s takeover. She said she’s unhappy that Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration proceeded with the transfer without formally speaking to Council members first.

Kobayashi said she’s primarily concerned about what happens after the state stops paying for private security and maintenance of the parks in 14 months. Spending $660,000 a year is “a good chunk of change,” and she said she wants to have a discussion with the administration about it, given how other parks around the island are hurting. “As long as it doesn’t affect the maintenance of our other parks. I mean, we only have so much money to go around.”

Correction: The Hawaii Community Development Authority will hold a final vote on transferring four Kakaako parks to the city at a meeting Wednesday. An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect day.
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