Tent community grows on sidewalks near Aala Park

Bob Marchant
Bob Marchant
Sam Moku
Sam Moku
Michael Tsark
Michael Tsark

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The homeless are on the move again after a recent sweep in Kakaako. Some have now joined a growing tent community near Aala Park. The area near the park is not covered by a new law aimed at keeping sidewalks clear for pedestrians. The measure to keep tents and other structures off sidewalks was the first bill signed by Honolulu mayor Peter Carlisle, but police aren't enforcing it. The homeless are also finding ways to get around the law.

Some homeless forced to leave Kakaako last month have set up their tents, shopping carts and tarps along the sidewalks near Aala Park.

"I was there about maybe a month before the deadline, before the sweep," said Michael Tsark.

"This is crazy. It's just getting worse and worse, and it's not just a guy with a blanket and a chair. They're making shelters," said Bob Marchant, executive director of River of Life Mission.

The non-profit serves up about 14,000 meals each month in Chinatown.

"They cleaned the park out and we noticed that it was pretty clean for awhile, and then as homelessness got worse, then they started cropping up on the sidewalks," Marchant said.

The area near the park is not covered by a bill signed into law last year that bans tents and other personal property on city sidewalks. The measure creates five pedestrian use zones in Ala Moana/Kakaako, Downtown, Kalihi, McCully/Moiliili/Makiki and Waikiki.

"We've been doing outreach, mainly educating the homeless on the bill, helping them understand that there are services out there that can meet their needs," explained Sam Moku, director of the Department of Community Services.

Honolulu police have not issued any citations under the new law that went into effect in late December. There are concerns about enforcement since there are no signs posted which could cost an estimated $250,000.

"We're looking at putting those, the signage up, working on figuring out if there's funding for that," said Moku. "A lot of it is just manpower issues. There's five zones that we're looking at that are fairly large zones to cover."

The ACLU opposed the measure, and Carlisle said he expected a lawsuit.

"We can't live on the beaches. We can't live in the parks. It seems more like the haves not wanting the have-nots to have anything," said Tsark.

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