State preps for another costly cleanup under airport viaduct - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

State preps for another costly cleanup under airport viaduct

Jose Luis Jose Luis
Tammy Mori Tammy Mori

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email 

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The trash is back under the H-1 Freeway's airport viaduct, leading state transportation officials to plan another massive cleanup that could cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

Despite homeless sweeps and multiple cleanup efforts, dozens of people have once again set up house under the viaduct. Last year, crews removed about 120 truck loads of trash from the area.

Used cups, old footwear, shopping carts. All most people see is clutter. But for the past three years, since drugs entered his life, this has been Jose Luis' home.

"I started smoking so I lost the apartment," the 24-year-old said. "No more place to go."

He says at least 35 homeless people live under the east end of the airport viaduct, despite signs warning them to keep out. Luis' girlfriend worked on laundry amid the smell of trash, urine and car exhaust.

"I see the rat and spider and centipede, so I can not sleep," Luis said. "The life over here living is hard. It's hard."

Calling it a health and safety issue, the state is planning another cleanup operation. Two years ago, road crews and low-risk inmates from the Oahu Community Correctional Center demolished the homeless camp, and removed hazardous chemicals, propane tanks and human waste.

Transportation officials call the annual effort labor-intensive and costly, with last year's price tag at $70,000.

"It's going to be a recurring issue," Tammy Mori, state Department of Transportation, said. "We'll have to come back here every year and do the cleanup until really the community gets together and we really can come up with some better solution."

Workers installed a chain-link fence with razor wire to try to keep the homeless out, but recently took it down.

"Instead of being a deterrent, it was actually kind of attracting some people because they actually made it as part of the infrastructure of their house," Mori said. "So they put up bed sheets along the fencing and were able to have more privacy."

Transportation officials are planning to conduct the next sweep in June or July.

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