No longer hidden from view, homeless encampment in Kalihi draws concern

Residents in Kalihi Valley say they're concerned about a homeless encampment that's right up this hill from DeCorte Neighborhood Park.
Published: Aug. 3, 2023 at 6:17 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 3, 2023 at 9:46 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - DeCorte Neighborhood Park is hidden in the Kalihi Valley neighborhood, which means a homeless encampment there has been allowed to grow.

At a meeting at the park Thursday evening, residents aired their concerns and frustrations about that encampment — and the people it has attracted.

“We’re constantly hearing people screaming, fighting,” said neighborhood resident Maila K., who asked that her last name not be used. “We see people roaming around the bathrooms at those hours (when the park is closed at night), and it’s disturbing.”

Another resident said they’ve gotten the runaround on who’s responsible for the property above the park.

“You’ve got to call this person, call that agency, call that entity,” said Robin T., who also asked us to withhold her last name. “So being that now we have these individuals whoa re pushed up toward the top of the mountain, who’s responsibility is it to get them the housing they need, the assistance that they need, and clear them out of there?”

State Rep. John Mizuno said it’s the same area where a woman fatally stabbed her boyfriend in 2019.

“We’re concerned with violence, domestic violence, crime, fire hazard and other things,” said Mizuno.

“And some of the people that you know, if they do a criminal act, many times they’ll run the hillside and use that as refuge just to hide and we need to try to stop that, deter that.”

One of the people at the meeting was longtime Kalihi Valley resident Colin Watanabe. A man trespassing on his property pulled a knife on him last month before running into the hills above the park.

“They know who this person is now, they had him arrested,” said Watanabe, who’s installed surveillance cameras and signs warning against trespassing at his home.

But residents aren’t the only victims of theft.

Mario Calantoc couldn’t afford to pay for his late parents’ Kalihi home. He said he’s been living along the hillside in the encampment for five years.

“They’re like homeless. Same as us homeless but then why rob homeless against homeless?” said Calantoc. “We try to make things happen for ourselves and with them they’re just making it worse.”

Mizuno added the situation is a liability for the city, which owns the land.

“From a legal standpoint, they’re trespassing,” he said. “Unless they get permission from the City and County or Kamehameha Schools, they’re trespassing.”

They city said they’re aware of the homeless camp.

“It’s been up there for a bit of a time, but all the people aren’t the same,” said city Department of Community Services Director Anton Krucky.

“Within that, we have to take each situation in its own way and so there’s groupings of people that are up there, but there are also families that we’ve been able to house that were there.”

Residents at the meeting asked officials to put more “No Trespassing” warning signs up at the park, and the city Parks and Recreation Department may consider closing the park’s restrooms at night.

Watanabe said he wants to start a neighborhood watch program on his street next to the park. It’s a move that’s being encouraged by the Honolulu Police Department.

“You’re looking out,” said Maj. Roland Turner, HPD’s District 5 Commander for Kalihi. “You’re looking for things that are unusual and you’re calling us. But if we can get a neighborhood security watch, we can see that that engagement goes up.”

The turnout at the meeting left several residents more optimistic.

“We as a community are very hopeful that action will be taking place very, very soon,” said Maila K.