HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A renovation project at Waimanalo Beach Park that will displace about 80 homeless people has been delayed for about a week.
The city and county of Honolulu says the improvements are necessary for all campers, but homeless advocates say, it is an excuse to clear them out of the area.
Waimanalo has 19 campsites, but only a handful of permits are being requested each week. There were two weeks in September, where only 5 week-long permits were given. Nearby campgrounds like Bellows, sells out, and there are 50 spots there. Jeanne Ishikawa, Honolulu's Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation, says the biggest complaint they get about Waimanalo, the atmosphere. She says the 19 campsites are very close together and one group that enjoys singing or laughing can easily disturb the group nearby.
The renovation will decrease the number of sites from 19 to 10, making each larger and farther away from the next. The city will put in a handicap accessible walkway, upgrade the showers and bathrooms, and re-stripe the parking lot. But while that's happening all the homeless people, including some who have been there for more than two decades, will have to leave.
"Whenever we do any kind of improvements that's considered an active construction site, so like any other construction site no one should be at that site, day or night," says Ishikawa.
An enforcement sweep last Friday forced the homeless onto the side of the street which sparked outrage from community activists and some of the Native Hawaiian families. Some get the required camping permits every week, which is perfectly legal.
"I don't know if it was just for construction purposes. From the looks of things, it was just a way of pushing the houseless on the side," said Waimanalo resident Kukana Kama-Toth, shortly after the enforcement.
Lavaina Aina, who has been a fixture at the beach says the sweep made her angry, "Where are the families going with kids? We have families here with kids," she said. "Why do you want to beautify the park for? For the tourists? I know it ain't for us."
Jun Yang, the Executive Director for Housing for the city says outreach workers have been offering options, "Our shelters have space right now, a number of shelters around the island and it's just a matter of people saying, I want to go into a shelter."
According to the city, none of the homeless campers contacted by outreach workers earlier this week or last week, agreed to move into nearby shelters.
The renovation project is expected to be completed by the end of the year barring any more delays.