Homeless return to park recently closed for cleaning - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Homeless return to park recently closed for cleaning

A week ago, the state announced clean-up and repairs to Mauka Gateway Park in Kakaako.

The park was closed for seven days for maintenance work like trimming trees and repairing sprinklers.

But on Monday, homeless individuals were there in significant numbers.

"I come here because it's safe," said Anthony Nao. "Convenient for everything around me."

Nao has been living on the street about a year. He has a job he, but lost his home after the mortgage got to be too much.

"I was only making $10 an hour at the time. I was only able to hold on to my place for four months until my funds were depleted," he said.

Since the sweeps started, Nao said he's been bounced around Kakaako.  

Like others, lately he's been setting up camp along Ala Moana at Mauka Gateway Park.

Tents and make-shift shelters, along with pets, are set up just inside the perimeter of the sidewalk. Park rules like no grocery carts or clothes lines typically aren't enforced.

When Hawaii News Now asked if the state bothers homeless here, Nao said, "No, no. They do enforce park closure at 10 p.m. The (deputy) sheriffs do come around and enforce that. We respect that. After 5 in the morning we all return."

State homeless coordinator Scott Morishige says since August, service providers have helped more than 200 people in Kakaako and nearby Kewalo Basin get into shelter or find permanent housing. 

"Every time we go out into the park to enforce park closure hours we make sure we bring outreach providers along with us," he said.

Nao says he wants to go into a shelter, but hasn't been able to find a place that will allow his dog.

In the meantime. he's hoping government can come up with another solution.

"Clearly they've downsized the population of homelessness out here so we can actually all fit into one designated area," he said.

According to the Hawaii Community Development Authority, maintenance and operation of all four Kakaako parks costs about $1 million a year.

Read more about Hawaii's homeless crisis in our special section, Homeless in Hawaii.

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