Homeless camp to city: Stop the sweeps and let us come to the bargaining table

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Feb. 7, 2019 at 5:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A group of homeless people who typically try to avoid media attention sought it out Thursday morning, inviting cameras inside the tents they call home.

For years, Kakaako’s been a sort of ground zero for Oahu’s homeless crisis with illegal campers constantly being shuffled from one street to the next.

John Kaulupali is one of them. He’s been living in Kakaako since 2008.

During a news conference under several monkeypod trees, Kaulupali called on the government to cease homeless enforcement in the area. He also asked the city to work with the camp to find a temporary site for the estimated 100 people who live there.

“It’s time for the homeless people to speak out,” said Kaulupali. “I know for a fact the people here want housing. But they cannot meet the requirements that they have to meet to get a place. How can they go to work if they are afraid to leave where they’re at because somebody just might take their stuff?”

Since October, members of the Kakaako camp have organized into a group called Ka Poe o Kakaako, which means The People of Kakaako.

They, alongside a group of concerned citizens called Hui Aloha, have coordinated several park clean-ups.

Over the weekend, Ka Poe o Kakaako also persuaded people living outside the Children’s Discovery Center to join them in the front of the park.

“We want to be a part of society. We do want to be a part of the resolution. Come talk with us. Let us know what we can do,” said Kaulupali.

What’s the city’s reaction to the effort?

Marc Alexander, the head of the Mayor’s Housing office, told HNN he’s always happy to sit down and talk story with people in the community.

When asked if the city would consider stopping sweeps, Alexander said the administration’s primary concern is the health and safety of the entire community and for that reason homeless enforcement won’t stop.

"The park is unfit for human habitation,” said Alexander. “We know being homeless, their life expectancy is reduced by at least 20-years. That concerns us.”

He also shot down the idea of legalizing a temporary campsite, saying there are a variety of shelter options for people who want off the street.

“We are not going to allow safe zones,” said Alexander. “In that area just this morning there were 25 empty shelter beds available.”

After the news conference, Kaulupali and members of Hui Aloha hand delivered this letter to Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s office.

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