Mile-long fence along Kapalama Canal keeping homeless out

Mile-long fence along Kapalama Canal keeping homeless out
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

KALIHI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Businesses say a $240,000, mile-long fence the city installed along Kapalama Canal in September has deterred homeless people from camping along the banks of the waterway.

But not all the homeless in the area have moved out.

Business owner Todd Nitta says a pocket of people who used to live along the canal have set up camp outside his repair shop on Kaumualii Street.

With them have come problems: "A lot of crime, fighting, just the other week we had a stabbing there," he said.

He calls the fence "a temporary deterrent."

"We're not solving the problem. We're just moving them from here to there," Nitta said.

But others say the fence has improved the situation.

Shirley Pai Hilton's Kahala Pacific Floors business faces Kapalama canal, and she said the fence has kept people from resettling along the water.

"I've never seen something so effective that the city's done at least," she said. "It's been a good Band-aid."

Before the fence dozens of makeshift shelters lined the canal. Garbage littered its banks and ended up in the water. Nearby businesses complained that it was hurting sales.

Sybille Char of Hawaii Print said the fence finally drove away a persistent problem.

"We would have people wandering onto the premises of the property of this particular area here. They would try to encamp themselves within here and bring in trash as well," she said.

The city also points out that a large chunk of the homeless in Kapalama were moved into shelters. The Institute for Human Services took in 56 people immediately after the fence went up. A number of others eventually followed when they were forced to move.

The city says it installed the fence to address erosion and environmental issues.

"We have since observed a significant reduction in trash in the canal since the fence was installed, and since vehicles are no longer able to park along the unprotected banks of the canal, pollutants from petroleum products and sediment runoff have been drastically reduced," said Ross Sasamura, director of the city's Facility Maintenance Department.

Camping and setting up tents along the canal are now banned. Violators can be fined $1,000 and put in jail.

Copyright 2016 Hawaii News Now.  All rights reserved.