Citing safety concerns, city clears homeless from Nimitz Highway medians

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - City crews cleared out homeless camps on Nimitz Highway medians Monday without giving the customary 24-hour notification.

The city said the quick action was needed because the camps were posing a risk to drivers.

As clean-up crews rolled up Monday, people camped in the center of Nimitz Highway rolled out.

Renee Sylvester has been living in a tent in the median of the road for six months, and said she doesn't understand why the quick sweep was needed.

"They can push everybody out, but where the f*** is everybody supposed to go?" asked Sylvester.

Although the land along Nimitz Highway is owned by the state, the city stepped in to clear the median after getting complaints that the sprawling encampment was affecting traffic.

The homeless were given a half hour to gather their belongings before crews hauled away the rest.

The items left behind included grocery carts, piles of trash and human waste.

The number of makeshift shelters popping up along the six-lane highway have multiplied since the mayor signed a new sit-lie ban for parts of Iwilei last month.

A lack of manpower prevented crews from also dismantling structures that were blocking nearby sidewalks.

"We do hope at some point the state of Hawaii will be able to marshal the necessary resources and support to establish a similar dedicated team," said Ross Sasamura, of the city Department of Facilities Maintenance.

The manager of a nearby restaurant says if something isn't done soon somebody's going to get hit.

"People on Nimitz are driving really fast. It's really dangerous," said Chris Shimabukuro, of Koala Moa.

Shortly after police left the area, people began re-claiming their campsites. Even so, the city said the sweep was worthwhile.

"I hardly think it's maid service or a waste of time because the people who have received support from our teams and have seen some relief are very much appreciative of it," Sasamura said.

The state is scheduled to sweep the sidewalks along Nimitz Highway on Tuesday.

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