After months, 3 Kakaako parks reopen with stricter enforcement
KAKAAKO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three months after closing for renovations and repairs, Kakaako Waterfront Park is scheduled to re-open Monday.
As officials prepare for the public, they're also bracing themselves for the possibility that illegal homeless campers will move back into the area.
When the gates re-open at 6 a.m. Jan. 8, it will happen with a new security team and a new plan to prevent illegal homeless campers from reclaiming an area in what has been an ongoing struggle for officials.
The new security detail will be in charge of enforcing all Hawaii Community Development Authority Park closure hours and ensuring everyone has cleared out by 10 p.m. each night. In addition, HCDA will be working with the city and state to keep the area open for public use.
Kakaako Waterfront Park has been closed since October in an effort to address safety, sanitary and security issues officials say were caused by a large and growing homeless encampment.
HCDA officials estimate illegal campers caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to the irrigation and electrical system -- tapping into lighting fixtures and exposing live wires all across the park.
Officials say they've been able to assist many of the families who were living out of tents and along the sidewalks within Waterfront Park. Dozens of others have refused services and simply moved into other parks within the Kakaako area.
Outreach workers say this is the same group that has been shuffling around Kakaako for years -- packing up their tents, carts, and other belongings and moving every time there's an enforcement effort -- often times just relocating across the street or sidewalk as they bounce between city and state jurisdictions or private property.
Officials say this population is the most resistant to help, but they're hoping to chip away at that with a new approach that partners service providers with HPD officers from a new unit called HELP Honolulu. Under the new system, outreach will be offered and immediately followed up with enforcement, as needed.
The two Kakaako Gateway parks, which closed in December for the second time in two months as a result of illegal homeless encampments, will also be reopening Monday.
This story may be updated.
Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.