Sweeps deterring some homeless from seeking shelter - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Sweeps deterring some homeless from seeking shelter

James Amantiad is a part-time construction worker and lives in Ala Moana Beach Park. He says the city's sweeps have left him scared. James Amantiad is a part-time construction worker and lives in Ala Moana Beach Park. He says the city's sweeps have left him scared.
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The city has argued that homeless sweeps push people on the streets to get help.

But some advocates disagree, pointing to the large number of homeless who remain on the streets. And some homeless people say all the sweeps have done is made them wary of the government.

On Monday, James Amantiad was camped out on the edge of Ala Moana Park. The part-time construction worker says he fell into homelessness after getting divorced and struggling with addiction.

"I've been in this area for about a year and a half," he said.

Amantiad says the first time he was affected by a sweep, he was living in Kakaako. He was then moved by sweeps in Kewalo Basin.

Altogether, he says he's had his belongings thrown into the back of a garbage truck by enforcement crews five times.

The concerns come as the city and state continue to bolster efforts to move the homeless off the streets and into shelters, and as the homeless crisis remains a top priority for the Ige administration. A new federal report shows Hawaii has the second-highest rate in the nation of unsheltered homeless, behind California.

About 71 percent of homeless in Hawaii are unsheltered, according to the report. Meanwhile, 89 percent of Hawaii's chronically homeless are unsheltered, the highest rate in the nation.

When Hawaii News Now asked Amantiad if sweeps made him want to go into shelter, he shook his head.

"Oh no. It makes you, it makes us feel angry at the state," he said.

Other homeless agreed, but declined to be interviewed for this story.

For its part, the city says not enforcing sidewalk or camping laws leads to encampments that become entrenched and massive.

"When we don't enforce, we have huge build-ups." said Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

He pointed to the Kakaako encampment near the Children's Discover Center, where more than 300 people lived before it was finally dismantled in October.

"I absolutely agree with police that enforcement and not allowing large concentrations of homeless folk particularly in the urban core does knock down the chances of violent crime," Caldwell added.

At the same time, Caldwell acknowledged the number of people going into shelter is lower than he'd like.

He says the city is working to acquire more affordable housing units. It's also looking into expanding a new city-funded shelter on Sand Island.   

Amantiad, who's living in Ala Moana Beach Park, said he doesn't think sweeps are the answer.

"The way they're doing it is wrong," he said. "You can't push the homeless into another district, just keep moving them around if you don't have a real solution."

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