State begins clearing homeless camps perched above H-1 Freeway

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state started clearing homeless camps perched on an embankment above the the H-1 Freeway on Tuesday morning.

"I'm going to miss this place," said Corinna Aipia, who for the past year has lived in a tent near the Punchbowl exit.

She's not sure where she'll end up next.

The state started clearing the land by enforcing trespassing laws. Campers had been avoiding sweeps by hopping a fence, bouncing between state and city property.

"It's more difficult for us to do what we was doing," said Aipia.

Up until this month, transportation officials said limited money and manpower made it impossible to stop trespassers.

But $2 million from the state Legislature combined with another $2 million from the agency's maintenance budget allowed the state to hire a private contractor to keep campers out. The agency's first priority is to clear encampments above and beside busy roadways.

"We're working on the H-1 corridor from the Middle Street merge to Kahala as well as Nimitz Street to the Pearl Harbor Interchange," said Tim Sakahara, spokesman for the Transportation Department.

At least 80 homeless people live along the highway.

For weeks, outreach workers have been offering campers shelter ahead of the sweep.

Once enforcement is complete the state Sheriffs Department will be tasked with monitoring the area to make sure no one comes back.

"And if they do we go through the process again to make sure areas like this that are a health and safety risk remain clear," said Sakahara.

Some businesses that border the encampments are skeptical the state's plan will work.

"Four million dollars for homeless sweeps. What is that going to do?" said Daniel Rebujio.

Rebujio works at Higa Meat Market on Nimitz Highway. He said the company has been dealing with homeless people camped around the store since 2013. He doesn't foresee the effort having a lasting effect.

"When someone gets settled in one place it's kind of hard to leave. I think it's a waste of money. They'll keep coming back," said Rebujio.

Once everyone is gone, highway maintenance crews will come out here and make repairs to damaged fences.

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