Honolulu police officers Thursday morning rolled into the Walgreens parking lot on Young Street and ordered three homeless people to leave the private property — part of an ongoing effort to remove a particularly stubborn group of five to 10 chronically homeless people from the area.
They’ve also rejected offers of help from social service outreach workers.
Between Jan. 2 and Tuesday, a special city cleanup crew has enforced the city’s stored property and sidewalk nuisance ordinances 42 times along Young Street near Piikoi Street, according to city spokesman Andrew Pereira.
But, “a Department of Facility Maintenance SPO/SNO crew went by that area Wednesday, March 20 and it was clear,” Pereira told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in an email.
After he was ordered out of the Walgreens parking lot Thursday morning, Richard Hoex, 41, packed up his belongings as he was told.
Asked where he was going, Hoex said, “I’ll just shuffle around for a while and head to my same spot” against the back of the Walgreens building on Young Street.
He was joined by Geraldine Valdez, 45, her boyfriend, Marcus Mayfield, and their 1-year-old puppy, Kingston.
As she put on makeup, Valdez said she has been homeless “quite a while” but had been living on Young Street only “a couple of days.”
Valdez said she could not remember why she and her boyfriend ended up on Young Street with their dog.
The HPD officers who responded Thursday said there are usually several people living along the back of the drugstore, but never more than 10.
Asked where the homeless people should go after leaving the Walgreens parking lot, HPD officer Joelyn DeCaires said, “That’s up to them. That’s the hard part.”
HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu said in an email, “The sidewalk is a public walkway or access. Members of the public may be on public property unless there are laws that prohibit such (park closure hours, street permit, etc.).”
Hoex said he and his homeless neighbors do not block the sidewalk on Young Street and leave plenty of room for even people in wheelchairs to get by. He said he’s been homeless for 17 years after mustering out of the Marines in Kaneohe and has been living along Young Street for 2-1/2 years.
He used to live in an apartment nearby and likes the area.
Since he became homeless, Hoex said, he’s learned how the system works: He moves on whenever police ask him to, “then after they do the sweeps, we put our stuff back. For the police it’s a waste of time.”
Aisha Brown, who works nearby, watched police tell Hoex, Valdez and Mayfield to leave and sympathized with them.
“They don’t bother anyone,” Brown said. “Nobody wants to be homeless.”
But other area residents and workers expressed frustration and said they did not feel safe.
An employee of a nearby business pointed to dried blood on the sidewalk and said she has been afraid to walk outside to get lunch after a man was assaulted earlier this week.
“You just don’t know their state of mind,” said the woman, who declined to be identified for fear of retaliation because her company called police Thursday to complain about people defecating in their parking stalls.
“They poop right there,” she said. “We put cat litter over it. They sleep in the doorway (of a nearby business).”
Lily, 45, who declined to give her last name, said she works at a nearby Jack in the Box, where customers sometimes complain about homeless people in the restaurant.
“Walking on the street,” she said, “it’s kind of scary.”
Star-Advertiser reporter Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.
The city asks anyone to call the SPO/SNO hotline at 768-4381 to report illegal encampments on city property. City SPO/SNO enforcement schedules are posted online at honolulu.gov.