Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Monday, June 17, 2024 75° Today's Paper

Hawaii News

Homeless campers remain at Kakaako park despite numerous enforcement efforts

Swipe or click to see more


John K. is one of the homeless campers around the Mauka Gateway Park near the Children’s Discovery Center in Kakaako.

Homeless campers have found reasons to stay at Kaka­ako Gateway parks despite various efforts from the city, state and private organizations to move the homeless away from that area.

On Thursday afternoon about 30 tents lined the perimeter of the mauka park, flanked on two sides by car dealerships and on one side by Ala Moana Boulevard.

The park closes at 10 every night, so everyone moves their things a few inches away onto the sidewalk where they are technically out of the park.

Heavy policing hasn’t prevented the homeless people from using the park for years. Nearly all them have been ticketed but continue to camp there.

“(The police) just do it for harassment purposes,” Rukkus Leathers, who has been at the park for about a year, said while fixing a Bluetooth speaker.

Leathers said he is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and has watched people die while deployed and has earned the right to be homeless somewhere.

“If I want to be able to stay in this f—— park, I should be able to,” he said.

Patrick Ching, who has been at the park for a month, said he has been ticketed for staying at the park after hours but couldn’t pay the fine, so he was given community serv­ice at the Honolulu Zoo, which he said he will enjoy.

“I kind of like the community service,” he said.

Carla Haili has been at the park for only two weeks, and said she gets money from the government, some of which she uses to help pay for expenses for her sister, who has a home.

Haili prefers to stay at the park because her sister and her boyfriend don’t get along, and she’d rather not go to the Institute for Human Services because she said her things get stolen there.

Though dozens of sweeps have hit the Kakaako area in 2019, that doesn’t change anything for the residents.

“All (the city and state are) doing is pushing them from one place to the next,” said John Kaulupali, leader of the Kakaako encampment.

Kaulupali, who has been in the area for over 10 years and at the park for about one, said that even if the residents are forced to move, they’ll just keeping moving until they end up back at the park.

The Kakaako residents appeared settled in at the encampment. Ching was lying on his stomach on a reed mat reading a book. Haili and her boyfriend were eating plates of rice, corn, chicken and kim chee. Kaulupali was sitting in a camping chair talking with a friend. Leathers was fixing a Bluetooth speaker. Some teenagers were barbecuing. A girl was playing fetch with her dog.

When asked whether it would be easy to move his things — a large tent, some luggage, various electronics and two large solar panels — in the event of another sweep, Leathers said, “Yeah, I’m pretty resourceful.”

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines. Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.