Kicked out of parks and off sidewalks, some 'innovative' homeless take to the water

Kicked out of parks and off sidewalks, some 'innovative' homeless take to the water
Updated: Aug. 1, 2017 at 5:15 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Docked beneath bridges across Oahu are some of the island's hidden homeless.

Camps vary from simple homemade rafts to fully enclosed house boats. Some even extend onto the shoreline.

City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi calls the living situations "innovative."

But she's also concerned.

And this week, she proposed a measure that would outlaw anyone from living in a watercraft on city-owned streams.

She said over the past few months her office has been inundated with phone calls about the problem.

"There were also complaints that the streams are being used as toilets," Kobayashi said.

The issue comes as the city and state grapple to clear homeless from ever more hard-to-access spots, from land above the H-1 Freeway to space under the Airport viaduct.

In recent weeks, homeless camps on the water have been popping up in unusual places. One sunken boat was first spotted in the Ala Wai last week.

"I thought it was somebody's boat that got away from them. Then the next day I saw it was a homeless camp because of the blankets and the clothing and it just seems like it's not a seaworthy craft," said Waikiki resident Joe Silveira.

A spokesman with the state's largest homeless service provider says recent enforcement has prompted some people to move. Outreach workers say floating camps have become popular because it's an easy way to avoid sweeps. Homeless campers can simply drift from one jurisdiction to another.

It's not known how many floating camps exist on Oahu, but in the past connecting those on the water with housing and other services has been a challenge.

"A lot of them are actually immigrant population that are trying to stay out of sight out of mind.  They were very service resistant," said Kimo Carvalho.

Kobayashi said because the encampments are mobile, this isn't an issue the city can fix by itself. She's calling on the state to help.

"I hope that the city and state will work together because a lot of the waterways our state owned," she said.

On Wednesday, the Department of Land and Natural Resources plans to tow the abandoned boat out of the Ala Wai canal and relocate it to the Keehi Small Boat Harbor, where it will be disposed of in accordance state law.

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