New approach allows city to clear homeless at Kakaako parks

(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)

KAKAAKO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An area once replete with homeless tents and campers once again became a barren, empty space on Tuesday morning thanks to a new approach to sweeping homeless encampments in Kakaako.

The city now has enforcement jurisdiction at Kakaako Makai parks, which include Kewalo Basin Park, Kakaako Waterfront Park and Kakaako Makai and Mauka Gateway Parks.

The parks are currently closed to the public from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m.

For the first time, city crews utilized its new enforcement authority Monday night.

"Essentially the word is to vacate the park and not come back," said Don Shearrion who has been living on the streets for three years.

The parks are currently owned by the state through Hawaii Community Development Authority.

HCDA hired a private security firm to patrol and enforce park closure hours. However, since the state owns the parks and the city owns the sidewalks, some homeless campers would use that to their advantage and move back and forth between the two, making it a jurisdiction nightmare for state and city officials.

"It's a little more organized for our purposes," said the city's Department of Facility Maintenance Director Ross Sasamura. "Under the previous regime, when we had multiple authorities, multiple property owners, we had to coordinate enforcement, which at times became difficult to get all the resources in place at the same time. But under one authority, under one set of rules, it makes it far more efficient for us to move through the area," he said.

Shearrion said he believes the tactics are working and helping homeless move into housing.

"We've been moving and coming back...and what I'm seeing is that they're closing in. The quarters are closing. They closed the bridges, now they're closing this area," Shearrion said.

The city's Office of Housing Executive Director Marc Alexander said a team of service providers has regularly been conducting outreach at the parks and will continue to do so.

"In the month of March for example...something like 280 people were moved into permanent housing through the intervention of our service providers," Alexander said.

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