Lawmaker: Sweeps aren't working. Let's try homeless safe zones

Lawmaker: Sweeps aren't working. Let's try homeless safe zones
Published: Sep. 22, 2017 at 7:33 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 23, 2017 at 12:11 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Just above the HPD parking garage, there are several acres of green space.

State Sen. Will Espero says it's the perfect spot for a temporary homeless safe zone.

"There should be a place that the homeless can go where they won't be harassed," said Espero, whose district includes Ewa Beach and Ocean Pointe. "Where they won't be pushed out and most importantly where we can give them resources."

And homeless resident Cherryanne Satterfield agrees. She says she can't hold down a job because she doesn't have a safe place to sleep at night.

"We just kind of move around and in the morning we're tired that's why we sleep here," she said.

Under a proposal under consideration, the new safe zone would be modeled after one Big Island Mayor Harry Kim started in August.

Hale Kikaha is made up of a few canopies, portable toilets and showers.

Espero believes when you compare what's being spent on homeless sweeps, legalized encampments would be a better use of taxpayer money.

"All we're doing is pushing the homeless from one neighborhood to the next," Espero said. "The perfect example is Kakaako Park.  At one time Kakaako Park was a ghetto a shanty town. They were forced out, pushed out.  And now they're back."

This past legislative session, Hawaii's Interagency Council on Homelessness was tasked with figuring out whether safe zones could work on Oahu. The council is studying a handful of potential locations.

Scott Morishige, the governor's homeless coordinator, said there are three properties have been identified.

Two are near the Nimitiz viaduct, the third is in mauka of Aka Moana in Kakaako.

But Morishige still has doubts about safe zones because of failures decades ago.

"There are some concerns about tent encampments," he said. "When they've been tried in the past some have had to be shut down for health and safety reasons. One example was in Aala Park in the 1990s under Mayor Fasi's administration."

Next week, Morishige will travel to the Big Island for a first-hand look at the safe zone in Kona.

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