Some support turning urban park into homeless safe zone

Some support turning urban park into homeless safe zone

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some lawmakers want to see one of the state's largest parks turned into a big, legal homeless encampment.

The idea to turn the Sand Island Recreational Area into a safe zone for the homeless was discussed Tuesday, but was ultimately put on hold.

Supporters envision as many as 1,500 people living at the park for up to nine months. Housing options include tents, tiny homes, even cars.

The safe zone would be situated near the city's newest homeless shelter on Sand Island. And, proponents argue, the park already has parking, showers and restrooms.

"They're already doing that on the street illegally or in the park illegally so the state needs to come to the table and provide that option so people can do it legally until we get a better handle on the issue of homelessness," said state Rep. Tom Brower.

But opponents are concerned about safety, logistics and liability.

"Of course my concern was taking away recreational space no. 1," said state Rep. Dee Morikawa, chairwoman of the Human Services Committee. "And whether or not the infrastructure could even cover that meaning water, electrical, even sewer."

State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell said there are 14 "unauthorized" homeless camps on Sand Island currently.

"We have a high vandalism issue there," he said.

The issue is causing a headache for some businesses, who have hired private security.

Tenants shell out more than $100,000 a year for security, said Rodney Kim, executive director of the Sand Island Business Association Rodney Kim. That cost that's doubled since 2010.

"We don't want to be an obstacle to it, but at the same time we have to ensure that our interest is protected as well," Kim said.

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