Crews warn Honolulu homeless encampment about upcoming sweep

Crews warn Honolulu homeless encampment about upcoming sweep
Published: Aug. 31, 2015 at 9:11 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 2, 2015 at 12:09 AM HST
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Mayor Caldwell displays a notice that will be posted in Kakaako
Mayor Caldwell displays a notice that will be posted in Kakaako

KAKAAKO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Notices have been posted. The first phase of enforcement in the Kaka'ako area to clear a growing homeless encampment will begin on September 8.

Crews will first target Ohe and Cook Streets from Ilalo Street to Ala Moana Boulevard. Officials say an estimated 25 - 35 homeless people are living there, but there are enough available beds for each of them in area shelters.

"I'd rather stay out here. It's a lot safer out here out here than in a shelter or in jail. Nobody bothers me out here yet," said 56-year-old John Mantanona, who has been living in Kaka'ako for five years now -- but he says he knows that's about to change.

"Just to keep myself out of jail - I guess I better pick up and go. If not, I've been in prison institution for almost half my life already and I can't see myself going back," Mantanona said.

Officials are hoping enforcement will happen peacefully. In an effort to keep tensions from escalating, plain-clothes Honolulu police officers will be on-hand when crews begin enforcement next week.

"Our officers really know everybody here. They know them by name and everything. They've built that rapport, that relationship, with them -- along with the other businesses in the area as well," said Honolulu Police Major Roy Sugimoto of District 1.

Cooperation from businesses and all other landowners in the area are key to the plan's success. Enforcement efforts in the past have proven ineffective, primarily because of jurisdiction issues.

"This time around we have everybody behind us -- everybody wanting to make a difference here -- including, the service providers that have conducted a great deal of outreach to try to get these folks placed in housing, whether it be temporary or permanent, and that I think will make a big difference," said Ross Sasamura, the Director and Chief Engineer of the City and County of Honolulu's Department of Facility Maintenance.

In addition to the fliers that were posted Tuesday, they'll also be distributed over the next week in English, Chuukese, Marshallese, and Samoan.

"We're trying our best to communicate in the many languages that we can and make sure that with the best resources, the best information -- we can get people off of the streets and into housing and shelter as fast as possible," said Jun Yang, the Executive Director of the Mayor's Office of Housing.

Alvin James has already started packing. He's disappointed to be moving again after being displaced from the Moiliili area earlier this week.

"I heard that you could come out here and put a tent and no one would bother you, now I come out here and find out they're going to sweep the joint the next week. I don't want to be here for no sweep. I'm going to go back up to University and deal with the cops up there. They can arrest me up there," 52-year-old James said.

"I don't want to be a part of this mess. They're going to need bulldozers to get these people out of here. They can't just run them out. It's not going to be like a sweep before. They've never been dug in like this before," described James.

Officials say when crews come through September 8, all homeless individuals who are still here will be given the time to gather their belongings. They'll also be provided with a Homeless Help Card, which has numbers for criticial resource -- like shelters and medical care --  and a document pouch for storing important paperwork -- like IDs or social security cards.

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