Homeless continue to skirt Kakaako sweeps despite agreement intended to end cat-and-mouse game
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Joey Aurio-Munos has been living in and around the parks in Kakaako going on two years.
“We have to move in the mornings off the sidewalk,” the 26-year-old said.
Once the parks closes at 10 p.m., Aurio-Munos moves his camp off the grass and back onto the sidewalk.
He’s far from alone.
Despite countless sweeps, park closures and even an agreement to let the city take action on both city and state property, homeless encampments continue to spring up in Kakaako.
Seven months ago, the Hawaii Community Development Authority gave the city permission to conduct homeless sweeps on its land. But today, dozens of tents still line the perimeter of several Kakaako makai parks.
In addition to granting the “right of entry,” the HCDA voted to give Kakaako Waterfront Park, Kewalo Basin and both gateway parks to the city.
Ross Sasamura, the city’s facilities maintenance director, says the 41-acre land transfer would allow them to beef up enforcement and move squatters who repeatedly refuse shelter. But the deal has yet to be approved.
“It’s been put on the agenda at the City Council but it has been deferred at least twice,” said Sasamura.
He added that the Caldwell administration wants to create a base yard for its homeless enforcement team on a piece of land they would acquire from the state. That way crews are nearby and will have the ability to sweep Kakaako makai every day.
But until the deal goes through, he says the city doesn’t have the manpower to conduct enforcement in the area more than twice a week.
On a recent weekday, rows of tents sit across from the entrance of the Children’s Discovery Center alongside piles of rubbish.
Douglas Sencio is one of a couple dozen campers who’ve moved back in Kakaako Waterfront Park. It reopened earlier this year after squatters caused $178,000 in damage.
“We go through hell out here,” he said. “People coming by robbing us and police don’t do anything.”
Some campers said they’re waiting on proposed “ohana zones,” part of a state plan to provide temporary housing for people on the street.
Aurio-Munos said the constant moving is exhausting and makes it hard to do anything else.
“I’m 26 years old so pretty much I’m trying to work,” he said. “Mostly, we just want to stay in one place.”
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