As sit-lie ban expands, businesses wonder: Where will volatile camp go next?

As sit-lie ban expands, businesses wonder: Where will volatile camp go next?
Updated: Apr. 18, 2017 at 6:35 PM HST
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It's a community in chaos.

Since January, outreach workers say there's been a deadly stabbing and a meth lab explosion linked to the homeless camp that lines Iwilei Road.

"A lot of drug trafficking usually happens right there in the lane behind Salvation Army," says Kimo Carvalho, a spokesperson for the Institute for Human Services.

It's estimated close to 100 people live in the encampment, but they may soon be forced to move. That's because the city is on the verge of passing a sit-lie ban expansion into parts of Iwilei and Kapalama.

The law would make it illegal for people to camp on certain sidewalks; it's something business owners have been pushing for over the last four years.

"We're happy. We're happy for our employees. We're happy for the people who have to come and go from this neighborhood to earn a living," said Larry Heim, president of HonBlue.

But not everyone feels that way. Mike Erickson, the owner of Discount Furniture Warehouse, has a storage facility in Iwilei that's currently flanked by tents. He's concerned that enforcement of the new ban may push campers a few closer to his storefront on Nimitz Highway.

"They're literally using the bathroom on my property everyday. I have to clean it up," he said. "If they were to come over here to my store, I don't think I could stay in business."

The shift has already begun. Over the weekend, the fence came down in front of the old Kmart, displacing dozens of campsites. Several people have already moved to Nimitz Highway.

"A lot of these clients on the streets, we've known them for more than 5 years," said Carvalho.

Carvalho says with sit-lie expansion looming, they've begun to make progress. In the past two weeks, five people have accessed shelter.  That's the most intakes they've had  from this service-resistant encampment in two years, he says.

Now, outreach workers are in the process of making a plan for each person in the camp.

"There is a by-name list. We know structurally who gets what services and how we're going to navigate them either into shelter, housing or substance abuse treatment," said Carvalho.

But even with all the help being offered, many of the people we spoke with just aren't interested.

"I'm going to another district.  Another place that I can build another shelter," said Steve.

If the bill is passed there will be a one month grace period where officers will give out warning before enforcement begins.

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