'It was just like home': Homeless are kicked out of camp under Nimitz viaduct

'It was just like home': Homeless are kicked out of camp under Nimitz viaduct
Updated: Oct. 23, 2017 at 4:39 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the first time in more than two years the state swept one of the most entrenched homeless encampments on Oahu.

Traffic crawled along Nimitz Highway Monday morning as dozens of homeless campers emerged from beneath the viaduct. Of the 180 people estimated that were living there, only six accepted help.

"Most of the people we encountered were like, 'no we're good. Thank you very much,'" said Institute for Human Services outreach worker Justin Phillips.

There are no families with children living at the camp known for its drugs and gambling.

Some families picked up a couple campers, but the majority – accompanied by their dogs – carted what they could carry down the shoulder of the highway. Some told us they were headed to Keehi Lagoon.

Shirley Torres wasn't sure where to go next. For eight years, she lived under the viaduct.

"I was comfortable over there. It was just like home," said Torres.

Like many campers Torres said she had to leave behind most of what she owns. State workers stored items people didn't want thrown out.

"Everything I lost in there," said Torres.

"I had to leave my shed behind," said Lisa Chandler. "They wouldn't let me bring it out because I was taking too long."

For safety reasons the media wasn't allowed inside the abandoned encampment. But from the road, once visible make-shift house boats that lined the stream were gone. Trash littered the ground in some piles that were several feet high.

Dressed in coveralls, a 40-man crew hired by the state began the clean-up, hauling away countless truck loads of rubbish. Once the trash is fully removed, transportation officials say they have a plan to keep squatters from coming back.

"As we clear the rail contractor is going to be coming in a putting up fencing and putting up video cameras in the area to make sure it stays clear. And also bring in security 24-7," said Department of Transportation Director of Highways Division Ed Sniffen.

The state says it will be about a month before the clean-up is fully complete.

Over the past week, animal advocates have rescued close to 100 dogs from the Nimitz camp.

Hawaiian Humane Society staff were on scene Monday morning helping animals that needed medical attention. Workers also provided homeless pet owners with the basics.

"We're bringing out dog food, leashes, collars, we're offering free sterilization," said Hawaiian Humane Society field service manager, Harold Han.

It's estimated there are still 60 dogs in and around the area.

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