Kakaako homeless camps grow as funding for sweeps dries up

Cuts in funding leads to a halt in Kakaako park homeless sweeps
Published: Sep. 6, 2017 at 1:36 AM HST|Updated: Sep. 6, 2017 at 11:12 AM HST
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KAKAAKO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Twice a week, Craig Uemura makes the rounds at Kakaako Waterfront Park. It's his job to make sure everyone is following the rules.

But since the Hawaii Community Development Authority stopped doing homeless sweeps, it's been a lot harder to get people to listen.

"Sometimes they're actually sleeping. Sometimes they're just ignoring me," said Uemura.

HCDA officials say last year the state provided the agency $320,000 to address homelessness at the park. Much of the money went to enforcing park hours. Once it closed sheriffs would come in to make sure everyone was gone.

But that valuable funding was cut in June, enforcement stopped and now homeless have returned to the park.

Uemura estimates there are close to 150 people currently living in the park.

"I would say most of them are local. They've been here at least 10 years," said Uemura.

HCDA's executive director says the agency doesn't have the power to force campers off the property.

"We can issue citations. That's what we do. That's the limit of our authority," said Jesse Souki.

In the meantime, problems are getting worse.

Campers have vandalized infrastructure so they can tap into the electricity and plumbing. Dog attacks have become common and last week there was a fire at the Ehime Maru Memorial.

Hawaii News Now listened in as Uemura cited a couple camping near the park's restroom.

"Your not supposed to have a tent. You can't hang clothes either. The dogs got to be tied up too. That's a big issue too the dogs running around biting people," said Uemura.

Uemura wrote up nearly 30 citations Tuesday. At each of the encampments he encourage the folks living their to seek shelter. Nearly all of his requests were ignored.

We spoke with one man named Mike who told us he had lived in the park the past nine months.  "It's kind of a harassment thing I think because the state really doesn't know what they want. They say they want us out but when we're out there on the sidewalk they say come back in."

Without help from the state park officials predict the situation will only get worse.

"The citations that we give out are not discouraging them. We need support from law enforcement agencies," said Souki.

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