City considers fencing canal to move out homeless

City considers fencing canal to move out homeless
Published: Mar. 26, 2015 at 8:29 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 27, 2015 at 1:44 AM HST
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KALIHI (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's a startling sight, tent after tent line the Kapalama Canal.

In just two years the canal has gone from a pleasant, water-front business area to a homeless camp.

About 50 tents are set up on Kohou Street and more keep going up, and business owners say it's costing them.

"As you can imagine, it's a negative, a big negative," says Shirley Hilton, owner of Kahala Floors.

You can see the tents through the windows of her business, and she says the homeless camp scares her customers.

"They were asked to park on that side of the road and they refused to," Hilton says.

Hilton and other Kapalama business owners have been meeting with city leaders to address the canal camp.  Another meeting is scheduled for Friday.

One option the city is considering, putting up a fence around the canal.  But critics say restricting access won't solve the growing problem.

"They have no where else to go," says advocate Kathryn Xian. "If they put up a fence, they're just going to move to other areas in town, also visible."  She wants to see more direct housing solutions.

Even Shirley Hilton isn't sure a fence will work, "That seems to be the quickest fix but at the same time, should we spend that money or re-route to something more effective?"

Kimo Carvalho of the Institute for Human Services says outreach workers have moved three families in three months, either into the shelter or direct housing.  But Carvalho knows the process isn't moving fast enough.

"They have to want to make that choice, and we're going to offer them every single solution to getting there," says Carvalho.

He says the homeless they've talked to recently moved to the canal after being kicked out of state public housing units.

"They come from Micronesia and they start living with families and relatives, and because they're doubling up and tripling up into small units and spaces, public housing does not all for that," says Carvalho.

Other say the growing canal problem is the result of the Sit-Lie ban that went into effect in Waikiki and parts of downtown.

Whatever the reason, the Kapalama canal has become a major eyesore and has affected area businesses.

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