On Oahu’s west side, worsening homeless problem draws calls for greater outreach

“They need to treat these people with a little more respect.
Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 8:32 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 5, 2022 at 8:55 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Sheri Tsutsumi wants you to remember the homeless are people, too.

In fact, she used to be one of them — and is among those calling for a more compassionate approach to tackling the dozens of homeless people who regularly camp along Oahu’s west side.

Tsutsumi said she lived on the beach for six months in 2021 when she was struggling with addiction.

“I was homeless, had no way to charge my phone,” she said.

Tsutsumi says she’s now a year sober and no longer living on the streets. She works at the McDonald’s across from Nanaikapono Beach and still feels for the people living there.

“They need to treat these people with a little more respect. They come through will bulldozers. This is all these people have of their life.”

At a recent Waianae Neighborhood Board Meeting, police said they simple “don’t have the equipment or manpower to actually remove” all the homeless people camped at the beach.

Meanwhile, Partners In Care told Hawaii News Now that the west side only has two dedicated full-time homeless outreach workers.

To address this, Honolulu City Councilmember Andria Tupola says she started a pilot program in August that involves coupling a meal program with homeless outreach.

“You can’t go see a homeless person every 6 months and hope that there is progress,” said Tupola. “You have to know who they are. Who’s their family? What’s their name? What’s their situation? What’s their story?”

In a statement, HPD said it’s also been working with community groups to address that situation.

“hile enforcement, in the form of arrests or citations, may temporarily remove an individual from the area, it does not help in obtaining housing or support services for the individual, and homeless individuals frequently return to the beach or park after being cited or released,” the department said, in a statement.