Homeless population in Diamond Head area draws concern

Diamond Head's hidden homeless population may be increasing
Published: Oct. 20, 2016 at 1:43 AM HST|Updated: Oct. 20, 2016 at 7:18 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Diamond Head Road is one of the most scenic drives on Oahu.

But if you look away from the ocean, you can spot tents or hanging clothing deep in the brush.

And those who frequent the area say they believe the number of homeless in the area has grown in the last six months. Some are blaming the influx on homeless sweeps in other areas, including Kakaako.

"When I'm driving or walking by there a couple times a day, I always see people coming and going on either side," said one area resident, who asked not to be identified.

Jason Espero, the homeless services director for Waikiki Health, said the homeless are choosing the area because they can stay out of view.

"They have to go somewhere," he said. "They're going to go somewhere where no one's going to bother, that's difficult to reach out to."

The homeless campers on the cliffs go past signs posted by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which say the area is closed. And for the most part, the homeless are left alone.

But residents believe something has to be done.

"I know it's because they are out of sight and there's not a lot of places, but it's becoming a real problem," said longtime Diamond Head area resident Stephany Sofos.

There could be a few dozen people up in the area, but it's not known exactly how many.

"Several of our clients have told us that it's probably beset for our safety to stay away from the people in the mountains because many of them of are heavy substance abuse users," said Espero. "So for our safety, not to approach or even encounter them."

In the meantime, there are increasing concerns about litter, human waste and erosion on the landmark.

"Diamond Head is an icon. It is a state and national monument," said Sofos. "We are allowing it to run down and run into the ground because we are not doing anything to protect it."

Sofos said she has talked with the DLNR about the situation, but was told that the department currently doesn't have enough personnel to handle the homeless there.

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