Amid Nimitz enforcement, dozens of homeless move to shelters — but many more don't

Inside Higa Food Service it's business as usual. But the same can't be said once you head outdoors.

The state's new effort to move the homeless off Nimitz Highway combined with a recent expansion of the city's sit-lie ban have spurred close to 20 campers to congregate on the sidewalk outside the business.

"When customers do come, they feel unsafe," said Higa Food Service employee Daniel Rebujio.

Signs warn trespassers to keep out, but Rebujio says lately trouble has been finding its way into their parking lot.

"There's fights. People pee all over the place. They're swearing and there's a lot more activity going on at night," said Rebujio.

Scott Morishige, the governor's homeless czar, said the problems cropping up amid increased enforcement underscore the difficulty of the situation.

"The Nimitz corridor continues to be one of the most challenging areas," he said.

Morishige says while most of the people in the area have repeatedly refused help, the state stands behind its decision to increase enforcement.

In July, the state Department of Transportation launched a $4 million effort to rid parts of the H-1 Freeway and Nimitz Highway of homeless campers.

Morishige says the sweeps have prompted a total of 50 people to get off the street.

Forty-two have moved into shelters, leaving the embankments of the freeway. The other eight were sleeping on the sidewalks that border Nimitz Highway.

On Tuesday, Hawaii News Now found the embankment above the Punchbowl exit that was once crowded with tents is now free of campers.

"Crews go out multiple times a week. Sometimes more than one time a day to specific locations," Morishige said. "The idea is to have a regular presence. Not only the clean-up or the enforcement staff but to have a regular outreach presence."

Those who work at Higa Food Service say it's been well over a week since the last sweep.

"They're not doing anything to fix the problem. They're just starting more problems," said Rebujio.

The state says it cannot conduct clean-ups or homeless enforcement on private property. Officials said if someone is trespassing, call police.

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