City explains why Kakaako tent city continues to grow, council chair offers solution

Local News

The beating of state Rep. Tom Brower once again puts a spotlight on a growing homeless problem in Kakaako.

It’s been going on for years, but nothing has really been done. The seemingly endless row of tents has some asking why the homeless are being allowed to stay there.

We learned part of the obstacle has to do with enforcement, because the homeless have found a loophole.

Much of the land there is owned by Hawaii Community Development Authority, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Kamehameha Schools, while most of the sidewalks and streets belong to the city and some are owned by the state.

That creates a loophole when law enforcers do a homeless sweep.

The city tells us that the last time a homeless sweep was done was six months ago, and since the sit-lie ban became law, more homeless have moved there.

“The sidewalk is owned by the city, but then the lot right next to the sidewalk might be Office of Hawaiian Affairs or Kamehameha Schools, so people would take their stuff when they saw the city crews coming and move it onto private property,” said city communications director Jesse Broder Van Dyke.

It’s a loophole Honolulu City Council chairman Ernie Martin wants to close. He says the problem in Kakaako has gotten way out of hand and he was not surprised at what happened with Rep. Brower.

“It’s very disappointing and very unfortunate, but everybody knows it’s a time bomb that’s just waiting to explode,” Martin said.

Martin says the crisis should have been addressed months ago, but having three agencies come up with a solution is taking too long. He’s meeting with the governor next week to put his plan into action.

“If they’re not able to move forward with any immediate relief, then I think they need to step out of the way and let the county take the lead,” Martin said.

It would take approval from HCDA, Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Kamehameha Schools to put the plan into action. KHON2 spoke with all three organizations. They said they’re open to the idea but would want more details on where the homeless would be relocated.

Martin says he will meet with the governor to see if there’s any state land available. HCDA adds that in the meantime, more immediate needs should be provided.

“Opportunities for them to use shower and laundry facilities, so they’re on the street but they have facilities that’s better to do it someplace that’s made for that instead of in the street,” said HCDA executive director Anthony Ching.

Martin says there’s also the possibility of having Kamehameha Schools or OHA donate some land.

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