Growing number of homeless in cars spurs concern in Moiliili

Moiliili businesses raise concerns about growing number of homeless in cars
Updated: Jul. 12, 2017 at 9:31 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Anna O'Brien's general manager Joe Felix says parking along Beretania near Moiliili Park has always been limited.

But it's gotten worse since a box truck and a handful of other cars showed up in May -- and haven't moved. There are crates wedged under vehicles while tents and debris come close to spilling into the street.

Felix said people live in the cars and keep them there around the clock.

"They have pets over there. They usually have plants out. Carpets. It's like it's their living room," he said.

The vehicles take up at least four spaces -- prime parking for restaurant customers. But that's not the main concern.

"We've had musicians who have been threatened and one was physically assaulted over there. We've had other staff members threatened, harassed," he said, adding that he's contacted police and the city numerous times but nothing's changed.

"I would just like a response," said Felix.

Shortly after Hawaii News Now put a call into the city about the situation, he got one.

Several officers showed up at the camp. When Felix asked if the homeless could just live there for months at a time an officer told him, "Unfortunately, yes."

Honolulu Police Department Corp. Leroy Meheula said the only thing he could do is mark the vehicle's tires.

"Now as long as they move that vehicle after it's been marked another 24 hours begins," said Meheula.

Meheula told Felix that if saw other issues, he could call 911.

Felix told the officer he has been calling. "You're the first officer I've seen on site," he said.

Meheula responded, "OK. Well, right, Can't help you there."

But Honolulu police Capt. Brent Kagawa said officers are increasing the use of citations against people who live or sleep in their cars. That's because there's a state law banning anyone from sleeping or living in their cars overnight.

"Basically, it says just that. Habitating in a vehicle between six p-m and six a-m is a violation of the law on city and county streets," said Kagawa.

On Wednesday evening, officers swooped in on the area around Moiliili Neighborhood Park and cited the apparent owners of several vehicles, including those Felix complained about.

A spokesman for the state's largest homeless service provider said this section of Beretania Street as well as parts of Young Street have been inundated with people living in their cars.

"They feel safe living in those areas because it's legal to park there at night. There aren't any restricted zones. It's not metered," said Kimo Carvalho.

As for any long-term solutions, the city said it would like the neighborhood's input on restricting parking. One option is to limit or prohibit overnight parking while the park is closed. The city is also considering gating the park's restrooms after hours.

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