Homeless move into cemetery, frustrating efforts to clean it up
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gary Shim does what he can to maintain Sunset Memorial Park in Pearl City.
Bur recently, illegal campers have moved in, desecrating the sacred ground where his loves ones are buried.
For years, the cemetery has been plagued with problems after its owner ran out of money. Now, those who volunteer to look after the place say the situation is spiraling out of control.
"We've seen a lot of illegal things go on," said volunteer Peter Fernando.
Added Shim, "The homeless issues. The abandoned vehicles. A lot of illegal drug use. It's not safe in there."
Within minutes of arriving, Hawaii News Now found out first-hand what they were talking about. Before even stepping foot into the cemetery, a man wielding a knife emerged from the encampment and told HNN to leave.
Neighbors say problems are now spilling onto their property.
Ele lives at a nearby senior apartment complex, and asked that her last name not be used to protect her identity.
She says activity increased after the Pearl Harbor Bike path was swept in August.
Over the past few months, Ele said, squatters have been found making themselves at home inside their community room and laundry facility. Clothes and electric scooters have been reported missing. At times, she doesn't feel safe.
"They sit around. They sat by my door until I asked them where are you going. They said, 'oh I'm going to see my grandma.' I said what's your grandma's apartment number? They said, 'oh never mind' and they just walked out," said Ele.
Scott Morishige, the governor's homeless coordinator, said he wasn't aware of the encampment and has since notified outreach workers about the situation.
"We're going to be in coordination with the city and county to see what we can do in terms of a coordinated response," Morishige said.
Officials ask residents to report homeless encampments in their neighborhood.
To contact the officials about an illegal campers on state land call 586-0193. To report a camp on city property call 768-4381.
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