‘Compassionate disruption’ of Kakaako homeless encampment begins next week

Notices went up Tuesday notifying the public that the city will be enforcing its sidewalk nuisance and stored property ordinances (ROH Chapter 29, Articles 16 and 19) starting 11 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8. in Kakaako Makai.

The city is targeting tent dwellers along Cooke and Ohe streets as part of a phased approach to dismantle the massive encampment in the area.

Officials handed out signs in multiple languages, including Chuukese, Marshallese and Samoan, letting two dozen people living on the street know that in a week, police will be moving them off the street and into a homeless shelter. They’re targeting singles, not families, first.

“People cannot camp and take over parts of city (or) state property that’s built and designed for everyone and not one specific group. It’s not safe,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “I do believe that compassionate disruption does work. We’ve seen it happen in Waikiki, downtown, Chinatown and other parts of this island, and we’re going to begin that now in Kakaako, starting today.”

Enforcement will take place between Ilalo Street and Ala Moana Boulevard, then expand in a phased approach in subsequent weeks to the other streets of Kakaako Makai, with specific locations and timing to be announced later.

Workers also handed out the city’s Oahu Homeless Help Card and blue pouches that can be used to store important documents such as IDs and medication.

Already, homeless agencies have moved 43 people off the streets. That’s 15 percent of the 293 homeless living there — eight families and nine single adults surveyed in Kakaako.

“Our goal is to place all 31 of the families identified in the Partners in Care survey into shelter or housing by the end of the year,” said Scott Morishige, the state’s new homeless coordinator.

By the end of October, officials hope to be halfway to that goal.

To make sure the streets stay clear, officials said Tuesday police officers will patrol the area to prevent more tents from popping up.

“If homeless folks come back to the area, our roving patrols go around the area every day, and that’s why Waikiki, Ala Moana, those places look much better. They’ll keep coming back until that area is consistently kept open,” said Caldwell.

“Why has the situation taken so long to address that it’s grown to epic proportions and a crisis?” KHON2 asked.

“I think part of it is Kakaako is a really unique area of town. It’s managed by HCDA and within that it’s managed by multiple jurisdictions,” Caldwell replied. “But the good news is that the governor pulled everyone in and it allows us to address the problem in a coordinated way.”

The city now has a formal “right of entry” that allows the city to enforce its laws on the sidewalks throughout Kakaako Makai.

The city wouldn’t give a timeline for when the sweeps would finish, saying only it believes multi-agency cooperation will result in success. “I believe it’s going to work,” Caldwell said. “There’s no end date. We’re making sure that through enforcement, the area is kept open and clear.”

The city is also working to accommodate people with pets and will help look for available space at animal-friendly homeless shelters.

When enforcement is complete, officials say they plan to use the same approach in other parts of the island and on neighbor islands.

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D, Hawaii, is also a member of the governor’s leadership team on homelessness, and she said that with the opening of the Halau Ola One-Stop Center in Kalihi on Aug. 28, she hopes that COFA immigrants, who make up 30 percent of those in the Kakaako encampment, will use the facility to get help from public services.

It’s something she hopes will help her work in Congress to get a comprehensive immigration reform bill to get federal funding to Hawaii and reimburse some $40 million to the state.

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