20 homeless camps return 24 hours after sweep; some UH employees nervous
Homeless camp in Kakaako
KAKAAKO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Less than 24 hours after Honolulu police swept the sidewalk of homeless camps across from the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine in Kaakako, the same stretch was filled with 20 tents again Wednesday, as some UH employees said the homeless make them uneasy after hours.
UH Cancer Center intern Sasha Canovali , who walks several blocks to her parking lot, said the homeless problem has gotten worse there in the last month.
"It's definitely increased. I've seen a lot more tents. I saw the police out here yesterday moving people but they came right back the same afternoon," Canovali said.
She told us on camera what other med school and Cancer Center personnel said off-camera: that they're scared to walk these streets at night and on the weekends.
"Sometimes I leave late and I get a little nervous when I walk to my car," Canovali said.
Another UH Cancer Center employee sent us an email that said “I used to work late nights and even on weekend but I no longer do because it feels unsafe.”
Cheyenne Suka lives in one of the tents across from the med school. He and his 10-year-old daughter and six-year-old son have been homeless in Kakaako for four months.
Suka, who said he is disabled after suffering a stroke that affected his right arm and leg, said people should not be scared of most of the homeless living near the medical school.
“We don't cause no harm over here. It's just other the people who are way on the far side," Suka said.
He said many of the people living on those sidewalks are families with young children.
"Family on that side. Family on this side. Mostly, I do ... I have a whole bunch of kids that come here in the evening. We eat dinner over here and we make prayer," Suka said.
Abby Sylvester parks on-street right next to the homeless tents to take her three-year-old daughter to speech therapy appointments nearby twice a week.
"They're always very friendly, they always say hi. So I'm not concerned for my safety. It's just a little inconvenient more," said Sylvester. "I'm a social worker. I think that people are people, it just happens that they're houseless."
The med school and cancer center sent its employees an email this week reminding them that they can ask for security guards to escort them to their parking lots.
"Please call for help when you feel threatened. If someone is accosted or hurt by someone else the police need to know about it in order to take appropriate actions," said Elwyn Watkins, the John A. Burns School of Medicine building and security systems engineer.
"Nothing can be done if everyone only talks amongst each other and no one reports it. Non-reporting only leads our community leaders to believe there is no problem,"Watkinss wrote in the email.
Spokeswomen for both the school of medicine and the cancer center said they had not heard of any employees or guests threatened or assaulted by homeless people in recent months.
The two facilities held their first security seminar for employees in March, something that they are now planning to make an annual event. The seminar featured talks by Honolulu Police Department and UH security officials.