Ige touts homeless successes — in park to be closed because of homeless crisis

Ige touts homeless successes — in park to be closed because of homeless crisis

KAKAAKO (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige on Tuesday touted the state's success housing homeless families — in a Kakaako park overrun with squatters.

And a half hour before the news conference, workers plastered Kakaako Waterfront Park with signs saying that come Sunday night the area (including parking for Point Panic) will be off limits to the public — indefinitely.

The man who heads up the agency that manages the park says he didn't have a choice.

"It's not safe. The biggest hazard are the exposed wires and the proximity to the leaking water," said Jesse Souki, head of the Hawaii Community Development Authority.

"What's happening is some of the illegal campers are cracking the light poles and disassembling the live wires and attacking an extension cord to it. There's also broken pipes. They've broken fixtures in the restrooms. There are dog attacks,"

In July, HCDA stopped doing homeless sweeps after money ran out. Because the agency doesn't have the authority to remove people from the park, the number of campers has ballooned to nearly 150.

Parkgoers say things have gotten so bad they're careful where they walk.

"We're cut down to one fourth of the park now," said Miles Hatae, who was sitting at a table on the Diamond Head side of the park. "I don't venture past the restroom."

The scheduled closure comes almost a year to the day of a prior shutdown. The park closed for a month in 2016 while crews fixed broken light poles. The work cost $6,500. This time, officials say the damage is far worse, with repairs expected surpass $500,000.

Asked about the situation, the governor said even after repairs there is no guarantee it won't happen again.

"Right now we're looking at taking enforcement personnel from various departments to conduct enforcement through this area," Ige said.

HCDA officials say some of the repairs could take months.

Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.