Authorities begin clearing homeless campers from Kewalo Basin Park
KEWALO BASIN, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) -
The Hawaii Community Development Authority began enforcing the overnight park closure and no camping rules at Kewalo Basin Park around 2 a.m. Tuesday.
State deputy sheriffs also arrested two men and a woman on criminal contempt charges.
The park has been home to a growing number of homeless campers this year, before and after the recent removal of Oahu's once-largest homeless encampment nearby that stretched across several streets in Kakaako.
The park is closed to the public between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. daily. Officials say camping and cooking fires are not allowed inside the park at any time.
Scott Morishige, the state's coordinator on homelessness, was on site during the multi-agency enforcement effort that included HCDA officials, homeless service providers, and state sheriffs.
Morishige said that the homeless have been warned of the impending enforcement actions and service providers have offered them services and housing resources and options.
"In addition to shelters, social service providers have been offering access to other permanent housing programs, like Housing First," said Morishige. "And through the additional money that Governor Ige made available through the emergency proclamation, we are able to house some of the individuals from the Kewalo Basin directly into private rental units through the state's Housing First program."
HCDA officials had postponed the start of enforcement efforts until it secured a removal vendor willing to handle the collection and storage of various items during overnight hours.
Trucks from 1-800-GOT-JUNK were visible at the site Tuesday morning.
Morishige said thanks to the coordinated efforts, the enforcement went smoothly. Most of the individuals who had been camping inside the park dispersing without incident.
Only one person, though, took advantage of a free city bus ride the state offered campers to go to nearby shelters.
"That person is also on our waiting list for Housing First and we're hoping to transition them into private rental unit pretty soon," stated Morishige.
Morishige said that for safety reasons and to ensure the integrity of this and future enforcement operations that details of the actions, including timing, won't be revealed ahead of time.
It's not clear how many homeless campers were left the park, but at last count there were about 100 tents spread across both the Kewalo Basin Park and Kakaako Waterfront Park, the other active homeless encampment under HCDA jurisdiction.
No enforcement action was taken overnight at the Kakaako Waterfront Park, and its not clear when that will take place.
Morishige said officials hope to open a new temporary transitional family housing shelter near that encampment in February 2016.