Hawaii Kai creates task force to tackle homelessness

Hawaii Kai creates task force to tackle homelessness
Published: Oct. 26, 2016 at 9:28 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 26, 2016 at 10:06 PM HST
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HAWAII KAI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For years, communities have struggled with how to handle homeless encampments.

Hawaii Kai thinks it has an answer.

The community recently formed a homeless task force with a two-fold mission: Offer help to the homeless and ensure encampments aren't allowed to stick around and grow.

One of the newest homeless encampments in the community is just off Lunalilo Home Road, hidden in the trees.

Hawaii Kai residents first noticed it several weeks ago after seeing the glow of flashlights at night. "Most houses here are open in the back. That's why I have security cameras. I try to protect myself," said neighbor Antal Toth.

The encampment is on Kamehameha Schools property and extends from just beyond the roadway back to the properties at Koko Head Terrace. Kamehamemeha Schools has hired a contractor to clear out the camp off Lunalilo Home Road this weekend.

On Wednesday, Hawaii Kai homeless task force Director Michael Goodman made his third trip to the area.

"First we try to get the homeless to accept assistance through existing agencies," Goodman said. "But we also work with government agencies and owners of property to remove illegal homeless encampments."

The 10-member task force formed last month under the guidance of state Rep. Gene Ward (Hawaii Kai, Kalama Valley).

Over the past two years, Hawaii Kai has seen an increase in homeless residents, though the population is still small compared with other communities. Goodman says some of the homeless he's talked to moved from Waikiki and Kakaako to avoid homeless sweeps.

So far, task force members have engaged with about a half dozen people.

"The response has been 'thank you, but no thank you.' People aren't interested in resettling," Ward.

Meanwhile, neighbors near the Lunalilo Home Road encampment say it's been swept before and they're worried the problem won't go away.

"Now I'm even trying to get a gun. Because of this I have to protect myself," Toth said.

Ward says he plans to introduce several bills related to homelessness this legislative session, including one that would establish legal camp grounds.

To contact the Hawaii Kai homeless task force, call 428-9779.

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