Growing homeless camps along freeway prompt call for action

Growing homeless encampments along slopes of the freeway are prompting growing concerns for at least one state lawmaker.

“It’s not only embarrassing, it’s probably dangerous,” said Sen. Will Espero. “Both the tourists and local people are seeing it. Tens of thousands are seeing it every day.”

If you drive on the H-1, you may have seen tents set up along the freeway. Garbage spills down the hill and onto the freeway near the Nuuanu Avenue overpass.

KHON2 spoke to some of the people who live there. One woman says she’s been living there with her boyfriend for about four months. She doesn’t want to live there, but she wouldn’t say why.

Espero says the situation is unacceptable and urges the state to fix the problem before it gets worse.

“It needs to get cleaned up. The (state Department of Transportation) needs to do a better job,” he said.

We asked the department for an on-camera interview and received an emailed response instead:

“The issue of illegal camping has been a priority for HDOT and the State and we have done what we could within the laws, rulings and funding available. The passage of the new criminal trespass law for state properties (Act 136) and additional funding provided by the Legislature will help us moving forward and we are scheduling enforcement work lead by the office of the Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness and the Department of Public Safety, Sheriff Division.”

Scott Morishige, the state homeless coordinator, released the following statement:

“The Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness works closely with the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) to address homeless encampments near the H-1 freeway and other roadside areas. HDOT responds to immediate health and safety concerns, such as items on the roadway, and HDOT crews will remove trash or debris left behind from illegal camps when individuals vacate an area. In addition, the Governor’s office coordinates homeless outreach workers contracted by the Department of Human Services to conduct regular outreach in the area. The homeless outreach providers for the section of the H-1 freeway near the Nuuanu overpass are the Kalihi-Palama Health Center, The CHOW Project, and the Institute for Human Services. If you would like to report a homeless encampment or refer a homeless individual in need of services, please contact the Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness at 586-0193 or gov.homelessness@hawaii.gov.”

“When a lot of people get pushed from tent city, that’s when they come over this way on this side of the freeway,” explained Andrew Hoskins, who is homeless.

Hoskins admits it’s gotten messy along the freeway.

“There has been a lot of trash. If I see it, I learn from my mom, pick it up and put it in the garbage. It’s been a nuisance,” he said. “If someone comes, I just ask you to clean up after yourself. If they get smart, I won’t say nothing. I just clean it up myself.”

Hoskins says he doesn’t want to live above the freeway anymore. He recently found a steady job, and expects to get housing soon.

“As long as I have a roof, something to call my own and bring my clothes in, because I like to dress,” he said. “I just thank God at least there are people willing to remove themselves from homeless. There are some content to stay there. Those the ones I just pray for.”

Outreach providers often visit the tents along the freeway, urging them to consider housing.

The DOT says additional funding from the legislature will help them with scheduling enforcement work.

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