City crews clear out sidewalks, but homeless campers come right back

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At 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, city crews took aim at violators of the city’s new sidewalk nuisance law.

From Aala Park to Chinatown to Moiliili, the cleanup enforces the city’s ban on obstructing sidewalks, which took effect July 1.

“The reason why we do it that way is to ensure we are doing things efficiently. Visit one spot at one time rather than go back repeatedly,” Department of Facility Maintenance Director and Chief Engineer Ross Sasamura said.

KHON2’s Olena Heu: “We’re finding that a lot of the homeless when they are evicted they just go right back.”

Department of Facility Maintenance Director and Chief Engineer Ross Sasamura: “Well, the homelessness issue is a greater social issue than our department is tasked to respond to and the Department of Facility Maintenance is in the process of addressing those issues related to stored property and sidewalk nuisances.”

Just over two weeks ago homeless camper Robin Kelley was told to pack up from Ilalo Street in Kakaako along with a dozen others.

Robin Kelley: “They moved it and then moved it back.”

KHON2’s Olena Heu: “So what’s the point?”

Robin Kelley: “There is none.”

On Tuesday morning, Kelley was told crews were going to come by again on Wednesday. But she says more needs to be done to help get people off the streets.

“I am saying provide more low-income housing, more case management, and more outreach services,” Kelley said.

“We do enlist the assistance of homeless service providers and other social service agencies to assist us with the specific needs of the homeless people,” Sasamura said.

City officials say they conduct illegal camping and sidewalk storage enforcement based on public complaints and take action at unannounced locations and times.

“We have a committed effort to the people who actually own the sidewalks and the streets. The public, the people of the City & County of Honolulu, have full use of those public facilities and that no one person is able to take away that privilege,” Sasamura said.

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