Homeless on sidewalk near Aala Park moved

Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock
Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock
Connie Mitchell
Connie Mitchell

By Ramsay Wharton – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - From early morning through sunrise they packed up. Most took what they could cart off while others abandoned their belongings for good.

Volunteers and crews from the city's Department of Facilities Maintenance hauled off what was left. Police officers kept the peace while many onlookers seemed pleased to see the homeless go.

"They think they're above the law. They think they're above everything else and we all have to deal with their trash and belongings on the sidewalk and we can't walk by without being threatened," said Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock, president of the Chinatown Business and Community Association.

Around eight this morning city crews brought out the heavy machinery - bulldozers and the dump trucks in order to remove large pieces of furniture and piles of debris they couldn't move by hand, or quite frankly, didn't want to remove by hand.

Crews wore masks and gloves during the work and pushed heaps of trash and homeless belongings off the curb to be scooped up.

All the while, the stench of human waste filled the air. Public urination is among area residents complaints as well as cooking at the site, even drug dealing. Shubert-Kwock says the cops had their hands tied and were unable to move the homeless unless they fully blocked the sidewalk. She's hopeful that new legislation in the works will help remove homeless encampments from sidewalks altogether.

But Shubert-Kwock said, "I'm feeling very good. But at the same time I'm feeling cautiously afraid, because we know 25-35 to 40 percent come back."

This is no APEC cleanup measure. The move out is because the fence that surrounds that Republic parking lot facility is not in compliance with the city. A city spokeswoman said the fence went up as a temporary structure and had to come down.

That coupled with the construction work that begins to repave the lot, means the homeless had to be moved out.

The Institute for Human Services, a homeless service provider has 40 spots available for men tonight and six for women. IHS is helping about a dozen of the 50 tent city residents.

Connie Mitchell, IHS' executive director said, "In some cases we're actually getting some people directly into housing from the street. And these are people that are chronically homeless with some disabilities. So that feels really good that some people are getting the help that they need.

While other homeless refuse the help.

"They have alcohol, drug and mental issues," said recovering addict Alan Costa. "There's help out there. If they want it,  they can get it. Like me."

Costa said he has been clean and sober for three years and is on his way to transition out of homelessness. He now spends half of the week with family but still sleeps a few nights in a nearby park.

He attributes his return to society, as a testament to his own self will and determination to have a better life. He said he hit rock bottom, and added that he's only able to keep on that path, because of his faith and renewed relationship with God, which he strengthens every Sunday he said with attendance at New Hope services at Farrington High School.

In the meantime, community leaders say they'll continue to voice their concerns over the problem and fight back, to take back their streets, from those who don't want help.

"We hope that this demonstrates that hey, it will take time and patience, but we will get the law straight and protect the greater part of the community over some selfless, self-destructive people who refuse help," stated Shubert-Kwock.

Shubert-Kwock added that a 90-day pilot project to keep the River of Life bathrooms open to the public on the weekends will soon get underway. She said the community raised $5,000 while the city kicked in a $5,000 grant. The money will be used to pay for a security guard, buy supplies and pay for janitor. They'll monitor the bathrooms' usage rate during that time and hope it will cut down on the amount of human waste left by the homeless and drug users on Chinatown streets.

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