Homeless create tent city in Kakaako

Douglas King
Douglas King

By Teri Okita – bio | email

KAKAAKO (HawaiiNewsNow) - If you've taken a drive near Kakaako park lately, you may have noticed a tent city that's gone up, virtually overnight. There are many reasons for it, but now, the homeless are being told, if they're on private property, they've got until the end of the month to leave.

48 year old Douglas King gave us a tour of his tent on Ilalo street. "I operate this huge TV, DVD player ... I have all kinds of gadgets," says King.

He runs it all with old car batteries. King moved here from Atlanta six weeks ago and has used the last of his social security disability checks. "I don't have any money. I bought this before my checks cut off," he says. "Are you able to work at all?" I ask him. "Yes, if someone will give me a chance. I'm bi-polar, and I have a lot of mood swings."

King is one of dozens who are new here. Those who work with the needy say crackdowns in other areas have forced more homeless to Kakaako, and the mainland's wintry mix has added to the impact.

Marko Johnson, who works with homeless veterans says, "We tend to see an influx of individuals or homeless people when it's cold. It's cold on the east coast. Yeah, people want to come to Hawaii."

More people means more trash, complaints of feces in public areas, and reports of theft and fights. The local homeless blame the change in the neighborhood on outsiders coming in.

Hawaii native, Robert, didn't want to be on-camera, but while sitting in his tent he said he disapproves of the tent city growing around him. He's worked all his life and got a little down-on-his-luck lately. He's been homeless for six months.

As he points down the street to the new tents, he say, "You go down there and you ask them, 'Where you from? Oklahoma, Mississippi, Tennessee, California' - all young people, all drug addicts. You see them downtown buying drugs, the next days, I look, and what the heck? They got a tent right here put up."

The problem may not last much longer. The Hawaii Community Development Authority - which oversees growth in Kakaako - says the areas where the homeless now live will be severely restricted, especially when a seven acre paved parking lot opens nearby.

"We look to the end of February to have homeless individuals who are camping on private property or state property - which is set back from the street - we're looking to have them moved or to move off," says HCDA executive director, Anthony Ching.

That means old timers like Robert "Rabbit" Li'I - who's lived on Kakaako's streets for five years - will have to pack up and go, along with all those newcomers to his neighborhood. He says he'll move to the trails of his home neighborhood of Papakolea.

HCDA officials say they're encouraging the homeless to use nearby shelters. They cannot stay on private property or on state land that isn't park land. If they don't move from those areas by the end of February, HCDA says, as a last resort, the homeless could be arrested for trespassing.

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