People across Oahu are seeing more homeless individuals moving into their neighborhood.
Some don’t cause problems, but what happens when that’s not the case?
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Hawaii currently has 7,220 homeless people, the highest per capita homeless in the nation.
Many have been pushed out of city and state parks. Neighborhoods are now seeing encampments pop up, like in vacant lots or on the hillside behind homes.
Dale Kobayashi, chair of the Manoa Neighborhood Board, says there a known encampment on the Na Ala Hele hiking trail near his house.
“They got a big encampment. It’s kind of a mess, and that’s what people are concerned about in the valley,” he explained. “The possibility they’re going to perpetrate crime. They’re going to rob people’s houses. I think a lot of it is visceral. They don’t like what they consider ‘bums’ living behind their house.”
It’s not just an issue in Manoa. Realtor Stephany Sofos says she sees it island-wide.
“I believe if we don’t get a control of this, there’s going to be a lot of vigilante movement where people are going to take it into their own hands, and start to beat up the homeless to get them out of their neighborhoods,” said Sofos.
“When you see people living near you, and you’re spending hundreds of thousands, if not a million dollars, for your home, and you see someone sitting 40 feet from you. He’s not cleaning his mess and you have to? It really gets people angry,” she added.
As a homeowner, what are your rights? You can file a trespassing claim with police against people encroaching onto your property.
But what about individuals who aren’t trespassing, but living near your home?
“In that case, there may not be any law violation occurring, but what law enforcement can do is reach out to the homeless person to connect them to services if they’re not connected, and get them on path to permanent housing,” explained state homeless coordinator Scott Morishige.
Morishige says you can also call his office, and they can check your neighborhood’s jurisdiction to connect you to the right agency to help you resolve issues.
“Homelessness is such a complex issue. It can’t just be addressed just through the enforcement component. You need to have equal emphasis on services and housing,” Morishige said.
Click here for more information or call the Public Assistance Information Line at 855-643-1643.