State expands massive homeless sweep to troubled Nimitz bike path

State expands massive homeless sweep to troubled Nimitz bike path
Published: Dec. 4, 2017 at 12:55 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 4, 2017 at 4:27 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

MAPUNAPUNA (HawaiiNewsNow) - The bike path along Nimitz Highway will be closed for the next two weeks to clear out an entrenched homeless encampment.

On Monday morning, crews closed the Nimitz bike path between Middle and Ahua streets as they sought to kick off a homeless sweep.

The closure is scheduled to last about two weeks to give time workers to clear out trash left behind in the area.

Several state agencies will be assisting with the massive homeless sweep under the Nimitz overpass and along the bike path.

"It's all part of the state's effort to keep state properties on the Nimitz corridor from Kakaako to the airport clear and safe for the community," said Scott Morishige, the state's homeless coordinator.

Morishige says about 70 homeless individuals and their pets were swept from the site -- 10 of them were placed into shelters or housing.

"Even if someone does not accept an offer to go into shelter, the main thing is to make a connection with an outreach worker, a case manager, so we can help people get all the things they need in place to be able to ultimately get into housing," he said.

But some homeless say they need more than just a roof over their heads.

"I was placed into a home and there was no case management. There was no follow up. There was no ongoing care. And that's what it lacks here. I know the services, I know what to do, but if I don't get that aloha and support I'm talking about, I'm afraid this is my life," said Stephanie Sanchez, who has been living in a van near the bike path.

Over four million pounds of trash have already been collected in the area since cleanup efforts started earlier this year.

A sweep in October was the largest in the past two years.

At the time, about 180 people and dozens of pets were living under the Nimitz Viaduct.

Officials say the homeless population that lives in the area has been especially resistant to help. This has also been the site of several dog attacks in recent months.

That's proven to be one of the biggest obstacles the state has faced in trying to keep this area clear. But Morishige says they have a different approach this time.

"Our plan is to have regular DOT maintenance in this area going three, four times a week to make sure we can keep the area clear and secure just as we have other areas along the H1 and Nimitz corridors," Morishige said.

The state has said they hope their efforts will be more permanent than in the past, which is why rail contractors will install fencing and provide security to keep illegal campers from returning after the cleanup is done.

Officials have said much of the trash and debris accumulated by the illegal homeless encampment has also floated into streams and ended up in Honolulu Harbor and Keehi Lagoon.

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