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Resident’s late-night video of homelessness in Waikiki shows scope of problem

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 10:33 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 24, 2021 at 10:22 AM HST
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WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - There’s a mound next to the beach at Waikiki that residents say is a haven for the homeless.

The area is near lifeguard tower 2D. On Thursday afternoon, there were some belongings — including pillows and blankets — piled there with some litter nearby.

Resident Carey Johnson took a video in Waikiki late Tuesday night, walking past the homeless who have gathered up and down Hawaii’s most famous beach.

Johnson also happened upon a man striking and yelling at another man who had fallen out his wheelchair and was lying on the ground.

“I was actually afraid for my life as I was passing by and was relieved once I got by,” said Johnson. “I was ready to run if they were going to chase me, but luckily they didn’t.”

The area is a homeless hot spot during the day as well.

The city’s Emergency Services Division said it gets several calls a week to respond to fights, drug overdoses and medical emergencies there — off-camera, police officers say they get called there on a daily basis.

“The abuse that some of these people do on local people, plus the tourists have to walk this gauntlet down Kalakaua and be verbally abused, harassed for money,” said Tim Garry, who comes to Waikiki to surf.

Garry said it’s no coincidence that the homeless hang out there — it’s just a half-block from the daily free lunches provided by St. Augustine Church.

They eat and then go back to the grass for the rest of the day. And then when the park closes at 2 a.m., they head to Ohua Street. That’s where Johnson recorded several of them sleeping on the sidewalk.

He counted many more before dawn Thursday morning.

“Just between the police station and Kapahulu, I counted 54,” said Johnson. “Fifteen of them were between the Duke (Kahanamoku) statue and the police station. I mean, right on their front doorstep.”

Police can’t do much, unless the homeless people are blocking the sidewalk. But officers still patrol Kalakaua Avenue, taking enforcement actions when they can.

“That’s not solving the problem, it’s addressing the problem, it’s managing the problem,” said state Sen. Sharon Moriwaki, who represents the area. “But we as a community, as a state and the counties, have to make a major commitment that we are going to help.”

Johnson shared the videos of his late night walks on the NextDoor app. He hopes it spurs some new thinking to solve a very old problem.

“People that live down here and come down here and and utilize this area are done with it,” said Garry.

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