EXCLUSIVE: State will build temporary homeless shelters on Oahu

EXCLUSIVE: State will build temporary homeless shelters on Oahu

KAKAAKO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow)

The state is working on a plan for homeless shelters around the island in an effort to end unauthorized homeless camps such as the one at the Kakaako waterfront that has nearly doubled in the last two months.

Gov. David Ige told Hawaii News Now the state is considering various state-owned parcels of land to for the shelters starting close to town and Kakaako but also island-wide.

"We are looking at state properties that we might be able to use on a short-term basis for interim emergency shelters," Ige said.

Ige said he knows the homeless won't go to remote areas, far from bus routes, shops and schools, so the state is trying to find convenient locations for the shelters.

PHOTOS: Kakaako homeless encampment

Ige said the state is studying about 20 state-owned properties from downtown Honolulu out to Waipahu as potential homeless shelter sites.

Ige said could not offer a timetable or details on where the shelters will be located, how they will operate or how much they would cost taxpayers. He said they would have basic toilet and shower facilities.

"Building housing or shelters, even, is not something that happens instantaneously.  There are permitting and other issues that need to be resolved before we move forward," Ige said.

Ige said the homeless shelters could potentially be located on state-owned property across the island, beyond Waipahu.

"We need to be looking for solutions in each and every community because as we've seen, as you enforce in one area, they migrate to other communities," Ige added.

One new example of that: a homeless camp under the H-1 Freeway at the top of Kapahulu Avenue, across from Market City Shopping Center has expanded in recent weeks from just a few to now 16 tents.

Some of the homeless campers here told Hawaii News Now they've been swept out of Waikiki and Chinatown by the city's "sit-lie crackdown," which has barred people from sitting or sleeping on sidewalks in Waikiki, Chinatown and other areas.

"You gotta have it convenient, accessible to places for people to eat, get what they need and supplies of that nature," said Keith Burk, a homeless veteran who said he’s been living under the freeway for about a year and a half.

Burk said any homeless shelters the state builds need to be close to bus routes and must offer security and rules that are enforced. 

"They gotta have that regulated where everybody could stay like a community or something because they're still gonna have chaos if not," Burk said.

Ige said the state is looking at unused state land on neighbor islands for shelter sites as well.

PHOTOS: Kakaako homeless encampment

The first steps are the easy part of the process. The more difficult part comes when people find out a homeless shelter is coming to their neighborhood.

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