Amid lax enforcement, Kakaako homeless camps spring up again

Amid lax enforcement, Kakaako homeless camps spring up again
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

KAKAAKO (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Kakaako parks at the center of last fall's high profile homeless sweeps are once again filled with tents.

But this time, enforcement of park rules might be more difficult.

The city only has authority to sweep the sidewalks in the area. So homeless have moved their tents to the grass because the state appears to be more lenient with enforcement. But when sheriff's deputies do come, camps on wheels are easily rolled back to the sidewalk.

On Monday, more than 60 tents lined the perimeter of Kakaako Gateway Park, extending from Ala Moana Boulevard to makai of the Children's Discovery Center. Although signs warn campers not to stay in the park after hours, enforcement isn't consistent. The last time sheriff's deputies came through was nearly a week ago.

"The homeless people you see in Kakaako are the hard core group," said state Rep. Scott Saiki, whose district includes the area. "This is the group of individuals who do not want to be in shelters."

Saiki said that's evident by the lengths some are going to avoid sweeps. Hawaii News Now spotted a campsite on wheels, and people who had their belongings on roll-away crates and dollies.

"We used to have people who would just pack up their tent and move across the street and then move  back," said Connie Mitchell, executive director of Institute for Human Services, which runs Hawaii's largest emergency homeless shelter. "I think now, in the past few months, people have been picking up on that more."

While the issues with homelessness in Kakaako have persisted for months, officials haven't made clear who's responsible for tackling the issue.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority, which oversees parks in Kakaako, referred Hawaii News Now to the hovernor's homeless coordinator for questions. Coordinator Scott Morishige referred HNN to HCDA.

Some believe inconsistent enforcement is only making the problem worse.

"HCDA should be going out on a daily basis to enforce their rules," Saiki said.

Mitchell added, "I really think the frequency in which enforcement happens sends a message. If it doesn't happen that frequently then people will decide that they're going to stay."

In January, HCDA said the agency was working to change park rules to ban tents. Last week, the agency said they're still working on the proposed ban.

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