City talks possible dog park at Aala Park as homeless increase
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Aala Park is an oasis of green just outside Chinatown. But it's also an oasis that has attracted the homeless.
"People seem to be returning," said Honolulu City Councilman Joey Manahan, who represents the area. "And as a result we're getting more complaints again, from the businesses as well as the residents."
The increase has happened since other homeless encampments, like those at Kakaako, were swept.
"When those areas started getting cleared, they just kinda moved around, and they've sort of set up right in front of the restroom area," said Jaydence Goya. She's the president of the association of apartment owners at 215 North King, the condominium building directly across the street from the park.
"They won't cross the street on that side any more, because they're afraid," said Goya. "They would like to be able to use the park. We have a lot of families with small children, our kupuna that walk in and out of Chinatown, and so for us it's a huge concern.
The latest "Point In Time" homeless count showed that on January 24, 2016, there were nearly eight thousand homeless statewide, with more than half on Oahu. But even before those numbers were rising, the city had plans for Aala Park, including one for an off-leash dog park, like the ones in Hawaii Kai and the Ala Wai.
"A lot of people who live in buildings, apartments, are going to be able to come down and walk their dogs in a nice open space," said Manahan.
"It's a very dense community," said Mayor Kirk Caldwell. "You don't have anyone living in homes with yards, and there's nowhere to take their dogs and allow them to play with each other and let the owners just sit there and let them run around."
Caldwell also said the idea was raised even before he took office. "We've been working on it for a long period of time and want to see it come to fruition," he said.
According to Manahan, a community group has spearheaded the effort for a dog park at Aala Park, and is currently putting together designs.
Goya said homelessness is a much larger issue than one confined to Aala park across from her building. But as far as a dog park, "I think that it's a great thing. As a board we would like a little more information on what that plan looks like, but I'm glad that they're actually putting something together."
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