After several homeless sweeps that spanned months, tents have returned to Kakaako.
KHON2 noticed over 25 tents in the area by Cooke Street and Ala Moana Boulevard. Several pet dogs ran throughout the encampment, and there were a gathering of family or friends by one tent on Sunday afternoon.
One family noticed the regrowing homeless population.
“The tents are back,” they said while heading to nearby Children’s Discovery Center.
“We see sweeps from all over the city,” added Pearl City resident Joe Cunningham. “They just go and come back the next day. I’m not surprised.”
The first sweep started in October, and since then, the majority of the encampment has cleared out.
But there were stragglers, popping up in nearby Kakaako Waterfront Park, Kewalo Basin, and now in the same area that was cleared out.
KHON2 reached out to Tracy and Tabitha Martin, a former homeless couple now renting a home in Pacific Heights. They left Kakaako on Dec. 5, but they regularly visit their former neighbors.
“I can guarantee you one thing, it didn’t help,” said Tabitha, referring to the sweeps.
Tracy and Tabitha say the tents are home to several families, from all over the island, from Kakaako, to Kapalama, Chinatown, and Waikiki.
The state has repeatedly offered shelter – so why are these families refusing the help?
“We don’t like the shelters. I cannot live with my family from just a backpack. That’s all you’re allowed. It’s just a place to sleep. This is a place to sleep, too. What’s the difference?” said Tracy.
The state’s goal is affordable housing, but state Rep. Tom Brower (D-Waikiki-Ala Moana-Kakaako) says there’s something the government can do right now.
“Right now, overnight, we can set aside some land, whether it’s in Kakaako or somewhere else and allow them to pitch their tents,” Rep. Brower said. “That will go a long way to solve homelessness and remove campers where we don’t want them on the sidewalks and some of the parks.”
Brower says he’s working with state homeless coordinator Scott Morishige.
Meanwhile, the Martin family says they’ll do what they can to help their old neighbors.
“We had a chance, and that’s all these people need, a chance,” said Tracy.