Children's Discovery Center looking for help as homeless camp expands in Kakaako

Children's Discovery Center looking for help as homeless camp expands in Kakaako
Homeless encampment in Kakaako
Homeless encampment in Kakaako

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Children's Discovery Center has been surrounded by a lot of open space in Kakaako since it opened there in 1998. But now it wants to close itself off after some recent problems.

Some of those problems are apparently connected to the homeless encampment that has been growing just next door. Those problems were outlined in a an e-mail to the Hawaii Community Development Authority and some state lawmakers, with the subject line, "We are desperate for help with a fence."

It's the e-mail that state Rep. Tom Brower said prompted him to head to Kakaako Monday afternoon, where he was apparently attacked by a group of homeless teens at the camp.

"Should programs, tenants such as the Children's Discovery Center seek to armor their property, then I can certainly sympathize and understand that," said Anthony Ching, executive director of the Hawaii Community Development Authority.

That's especially after an incident that was caught on a surveillance camera aimed at a back entrance at the center. In the video, a man shows up, pulls his pants down and defecates on the sidewalk. He also urinates on the deposit before finishing up. A little later, another man shows up, perhaps with the same intentions, but he moves on after seeing what's been left behind. According to the e-mail, the second man defecated elsewhere on their property.

Ching said the homeless are filling what he calls a "donut hole" in the regulations. He believes having more destinations in Kakaako Makai, like the University of Hawaii Medical School and Kakaako Waterfront Park, will fill that hole.

"It will bring more life to the area," he said. "And as there's life to the area, then it will become less of a donut hole, quite frankly, in terms of people's consciousness, because it will become a destination."

Ching also said the city is looking at relocating the team that's responsible for enforcing the sit-lie ban to a new facility that would be built in a vacant lot adjacent to the homeless camp.

"Having a city facility located in this area might help to alleviate homeless in this area as it brings an enforcement presence," he said.

Ching adds that a long-term solution is still years away and will require cooperation between multiple agencies. But in the meantime, he said that if the Children's Discovery Center wants to build a fence around it, the HCDA will probably allow it.

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