‘It’s misery’: Merchants plead for help with homelessness in Chinatown

Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 5:49 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 10, 2020 at 5:52 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - It’s noon in Chinatown and a disturbance on Pauahi Street requires a large response from police, paramedics and firefighters.

Chinatown merchants say that’s just par for the course.

“Fights, yelling, psychotic outbursts, people with weapons,” said Fran Butera, of Chinatown Watch.

Added Bob Marchant, executive director of River of Life Mission: “They’ll be on the street, yelling and screaming and that all gets attributed to us."

Chinatown Watch says the homeless are taking over as the pandemic creates a more desperate situation and more businesses close their doors.

“There’s a great deal of lawlessness, lack of sanitation, this feeling of anything goes on the street. It’s misery,” said Butera.

In a recent survey of nearly 98 Chinatown business owners, 94% of respondents said homelessness in Chinatown hurts their business. Of 132 customers surveyed, 83% said it negatively impacts their decision to shop and dine there and nearly 93% said the situation has not improved over the last three years.

Chinatown Watch partly blames River of Life Mission. Under emergency orders, its clients can’t sit down inside so the agency gives grab-and-go meals to the needy.

On Thursday, a few dozen people showed up for lunch.

Marchant says they’re being unfairly blamed for Chinatown’s problems.

"People think the homeless wouldn’t be here if we weren’t here which is not true, said Marchant. “The people have to eat. They’ve got to eat,” he added.

He believes there are fewer homeless people in Chinatown during this pandemic.

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