KAKAAKO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Crews will begin the first phase of enforcement in the Kaka'ako area to clear a growing homeless encampment Tuesday, September 8 at 11
A week ago when notice of the enforcement action was first posted, there were about 23 tents or make-shift structures in the area crews plan to target first between Ohe and Cook Streets from Ilalo Street to Ala Moana Boulevard. As of Monday evening, 13 remain.
Ken, who preferred not to provide his last name, says he pitched his tent along Cooke Street two months ago because he was told he wouldn't be bothered. He knows enforcement is taking place in less than 24 hours, but he hasn't begun to pack yet.
"Say you're living in a tent and you want to go to a shelter and you want to keep all your stuff with you. Would you go to a shelter -- and you can't take anything with you?" asked Ken.
Every shelter has different rules. The Institute for Human Services, or IHS, is the largest homeless service provider on the island. Officials say they have an area for bulky storage and clients also get their own lockers, but staying there comes at a price, $3 a day for individuals or $4 a day for families. However, fees are waived in exchange for 20 hours of volunteer service a month.
"There's many reasons why a lot of people are making that choice to stay there and that's why sometimes these enforcement actions are
necessary, you do want to shake up that thinking to get them to take action to make new choices," explained Kimo Carvalho IHS' Director of Community Relations.
According to Carvalho, right now there are 60 beds available at the men's shelter and 11 empty beds at the women's shelter -- but there is no space for singles or couples with children, though the wait list has shrunk to just two families.
"We're really happy that the government is taking a phased approach that way we're able to accommodate small portions at a time and really
manage expectations and numbers," said Carvalho.
Cooperation from businesses and all other landowners in the area are key to the plan's success. Enforcement efforts in the past have proven ineffective, primarily because of jurisdiction issues -- but new signs posted by Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) warning the park will be closed for maintenance between September 8 through September 11 indicate a collaboration meant to prevent people from moving off the city sidewalk and into the state park.
Officials say anyone who is still here when crews arrive will be given the opportunity to gather their belongings -- but once enforcement begins, anyone who interferes with the government operation could be subject to arrest.
According to state officials, 56 people -- including 10 families -- have left Kaka'ako for various shelters since the area was surveyed August 3 indicating the population there was 293 people. They say shelter space has become available to accommodate even more people because during that time as 36 people have transitioned into permanent housing.