Price tag grows to move homeless off state land — and keep them off

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Homeless sweeps don't come cheap.

That's a lesson the state is learning as it seeks to keep up a series of sweeps aimed at booting out homeless campers — and keeping them out.

The state Legislature wants to put another $5 million into homeless sweeps so it can continue to pay a private contractor to consistently enforce on state land. That's $1 million more than last year.

It's an effort that started on Department of Transportation property last July.

Since then, the state has managed to keep illegal campers from beneath a large portion of the Nimitz viaduct and off the embankment of the H-1 Freeway.

Scott Morishige, the Governor's homeless coordinator, said of the 551 people crews encountered living on DOT land across Oahu in the past year, 228 have been placed into shelter or permanent housing.

He added that additional funding will allow other state agencies to enforce on their land too.

"The hope is that the funds provided will be sufficient to support the agencies. Give them better tools to manage encampments on their property," Morishige said.

But those tools don't always work. Despite sweeps — three times a week — for the past year, Nimitz Highway near Awa Street remains clogged with campers.

Morishige said the main issue there comes down to jurisdiction. When the state highway is swept, squatters simply move to a city sidewalk to avoid enforcement.

Lyle Takeuchi, the General Manager of Flora-Dec, said issues stemming from the encampment are constant, but adds he's thankful for the sweeps.

"If they don't sweep the area, unfortunately it becomes a bit of a mess," he said. "It does help. It does help a lot.

Resident Francine Hollinger doesn't agree. Someone broke into her car a year ago while it was parked in the lot.

"It's gotten double, triple worse. They only move from here to there. There to here," said Hollinger. "Don't they (government) know that? That they got to change something. If A's not working, try B."

The measure to fund the sweeps is now headed to the governor's desk.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.