Homeless cleanups taking cash from state road repairs

Homeless Cleanup Airport Viaduct

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A morning manhunt created a flurry of police activity at the Nimitz viaduct on Thursday after a woman reported being beaten.

The Honolulu Police Department called its Specialized Services unit to search the area underneath the freeway, which is a known homeless camp.

At about 11:30 a.m., police spotted the suspect and arrested him for the attack.

“He pinned her down, held a knife to her and started beating on her and other people heard commotion and called 911,” HPD Maj. Lester Hite said.

Police arrested 47-year-old John Kalulu for sex assault, kidnapping, and terroristic threatening.

The area has been the scene of several crimes in recent months and gets frequent cleanups at taxpayer expense.

It’s a sore spot for businesses on Kilihau Street near Nimitz Highway. The homeless camps have taken claim to the area underneath the airport viaduct.

“It’s a little bit unnerving ’cause you never know what’s going on over there,” Homebrew in Paradise president Mike Smith said.

On Thursday, there was a kidnapping and first-degree attempted sex assault in the area. Also this month, a 59-year-old man was killed in a stabbing. Earlier this year, Hawaiian Telcom fiber optic cables were vandalized twice.

“It’s driven home for me because my business is here I see this every day,” Smith said.

According to the state Department of Transportation, for several years road crews would clear out the homeless and clean up the area. They say it costs $100,000 every six months.

“Then when officers leave, they go right back under the freeway. We see that month after month after month,” a near by worker Styles Oana said.

The DOT says because of the persistent problem, they are switching things up. State crews will now begin doing cleanups every month.

The estimated price tag for that is about $20,000 for each visit, which would add up to more money spent each year.

According to the DOT, all that manpower and money comes out of the same fund to fix potholes and do road repairs.

“It makes absolutely no sense that the homeless are affecting our roads that we have today. One has nothing to do with the other,” Democrat Sen. Glenn Wakai,  Kalihi, Salt Lake, Aliamanu, said. “I’m not one to say let’s not just get rid of it in my district, let’s get rid of it once and for all.”

The state legislature has approved $2.8 million for new and enhanced services to address homelessness. It’s now on the governor’s desk for his approval.

“We as government need to start fixing these problems and not putting Band-Aids on these festering wounds that are out there,” Sen. Wakai said.

The DOT’s next clean up of the Nimitz-airport viaduct will be in early June. They’re hoping with more frequent visits to the area, it will cost the state less in the long run.

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