Homeless return to Kakaako despite outreach, enforcement

Local News

The state said it would take some time, but six months after clearing out Kakaako, the area is once again filled with tents.

Officials counted 293 homeless back in August, right before the sweeps. As of Sunday, 46 homeless still live on the streets at Kakaako Makai Gateway Park.

The state says the park belongs to the Hawaii Community Development Authority, so KHON2 reached out to HCDA for an on-camera interview about the homeless issue.

We were told no one was available today, and that there was nothing “new to report.”

So we reached out to state homeless coordinator Scott Morishige for answers.

“HCDA says there’s nothing new to report on. We saw several tents, if not more, than from two months ago. How is that nothing new to report on?” KHON2 asked.

“I think we’re continuing to again, address park closure enforcement in the same way we have been regularly since December. I think it comes down to an issue of resources,” Morishige replied.

A Department of Public Safety spokesperson said sheriffs are available to assist when requested by the landowner. They go through the park to remind everyone to leave by 10 p.m., and that there hasn’t been an issue.

“So does that mean on any given night, if someone is going to drive by, there won’t be any tents in the area?” KHON2 asked.

“They do periodic enforcements,” said Morishige. “I know sheriffs drive through on a nightly basis. Again, it comes down to an issue of additional resources.”

Morishige is asking the state for more money to get more sheriffs, deputies, and homeless outreach workers to Kakaako. He says it will “significantly” help clear the encampment.

“Let’s say you’re able to get the budget for this. How soon can we see these tents gone?” KHON2 asked.

“Due to complexity of issue, it’s going to take time to address the issue. I think having these resources on hand will help. Each situation is a little bit different,” he said. “You’re talking about issues in this area, (people) who have been homeless for many, many years.”

Morishige says 230 have been placed into shelters since August, and that the tents remaining belong to the “chronic” homeless who are refusing help.

“When people come back… like I said, my role is to coordinate the social service response primarily. We go in. I’ve gone down there personally a number of nights, try to get a by-name list, better understand their specific needs,” said Morishige.

He’s asking the state for $7.9 million for Housing First, rapid re-housing, homeless outreach, and to operate a new family assessment center in Kakaako. The bill will be heard on Wednesday.

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