KAPAHULU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State officials plan to conduct a cleanup next month of the area underneath the freeway overpass near Harding and Kapahulu Avenues where several dozen homeless individuals and tents have been established.
Hawaii Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara said that crews will conduct a cleanup of the area within their jurisdiction in August.
The effort will disrupt the homeless population currently living along the sidewalks, but it doesn't necessarily mean that they won't return to the area after state crews are gone.
Area residents and businesses near from encampment have been complaining about the growing tent city. Residents told Hawaii News Now they fear the longer the homeless are allowed to stay on the state property, the more they will think it's a "safe zone," and the longer they will stay.
The owners of the Market City Shopping Center told the Honolulu Star Advertiser on Sunday that they have had to hire security, pay for repairs and maintenance of their restroom facilities and even put locks on outside water faucets that were being misused by the homeless. Other businesses reported having to clean feces and urine off their properties on a regular basis.
One homeless man, who appears to be in his 30s to 40s, reacted to news of the impending cleanup by saying, "It wouldn't be the first time." He told HNN that he had spent 5 years living in that Kapahulu area. He said he became unemployed while living in California and heard Hawaii would be a better place to live, so he relocated.
When asked about why he hadn't been in a shelter or signed up for housing during that time, he said he couldn't afford it and added that "everything costs money."
Kimo Carvalho -- spokesman for homeless service provider, Institute for Human Services (IHS) -- said this area is not within IHS' outreach zone but he plans to ask members of the Partners in Care Oahu organization to see who may be able to provide services to those currently lining the sidewalks there.
Another woman said she had just moved to Hawaii in May from Minnesota. She said that she was "a spiritual person" and that a voice had told her to leave Minnesota to come here to start a better life. She said she lives on money from a disability claim. The 44-year-old said that she had wandered the streets when she got here, but didn't like a spot she'd been at before, then discovered the area under the overpass in Kapahulu. And though she is working to acquire an affordable housing rental unit, she said that she doesn't really like living in Hawaii after all and that she's waiting for a "voice" to tell her where she should go next.
Navy veteran George Smith, who appeared to be in his 50s to 60s, said that he had been living on the streets in Kapahulu for the past 4 to 5 years and was not interested in housing. Smith, who said he was a submariner, indicated that had received services from the Department of Veterans Affairs in the past to get a new state ID card. When asked if he was "offered housing tomorrow, would he take it?" he replied, "No."
Carvalho said that is frustrating to hear. He said "unsheltered encampments" -- like those in Kapahulu, Kakaako and along Kapalama Canal that create a perceived "safe zone" for the homeless -- make it harder for social service workers to actually do their job and help people get off the streets. That's because, he said, some homeless perceive it to be a better alternative than a shelter or getting into an affordable housing or transitional housing unit.
He said many want to enjoy the freedom they believe they have, despite public concerns. Carvalho said it's disappointing when "we have money to get people into housing, and they don't want it."
But a lot of progress is being made, he said. From November 2014 to the present, 136 people have been moved off the streets of Waikiki into shelters, housing or relocated to the mainland, Carvalho said. IHS' goal is to house or relocate 240 people off the streets of Oahu by the end of the year.