State says Kakaako homeless problem ‘not going to be solved overnight’

Local News

The plan was to clear the streets, but drive through Kakaako, and you’ll notice the tents are back.

KHON2 counted at least 25 tents in one of the first areas cleared of a massive Kakaako homeless encampment.

The first sweep started in October. There have been several cleanups since.

“Clearing the streets was the big plan. So why are they back?” KHON2 asked state homeless coordinator Scott Morishige.

“Well, I think homelessness is a very complex issue,” Morishige replied. “Both the state and the city are continuing enforcement of park closure hours. We’re making sure the parks are clear.”

Kakaako Makai Gateway Park is closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Morishige says crews regularly enforce the rules.

But during the day, it’s a different story. The tents are not on the sidewalks, but within the grassy park area.

“Are they back because of loopholes?” KHON asked.

“The issue of homelessness is not going to be solved overnight,” replied Morishige. “It takes a comprehensive approach. We’re trying to coordinate enforcement with outreach and social workers who regularly go to the area.”

Morishige notes the state’s made progress in the homeless crisis.

In December, the state counted 90 tents in the Kakaako area, down from 150 tents recorded back in August.

Since Sunday, KHON2 counted about 25 tents still in the area.

“For the past two months, we have moved a number of people off the streets and into housing. One woman got on a bus on a Tuesday to go to a shelter. By Friday, she signed a lease for an apartment in a permanent housing unit. We want to make sure we’re offering a variety of options for folks. We know shelter isn’t always the best option for people.”

Morishige says the state’s working with the homeless who are refusing to go to shelters by offering temporary and permanent housing options.

“We do continue to have space available in our shelters, and additional funding is available for Housing First to get people in rapidly,” he said.

Morishige says 51 people have moved into shelters, including 20 who were placed in permanent housing.

City and County of Honolulu spokesman Jesse Broder van Dyke says island-wide “sidewalk nuisance enforcements” cost $15,000 a week.

Broder van Dyke did not provide an estimate for the Kakaako sweeps alone.

Enforcement will continue in the Kakaako area, but times or locations are not released in advance.

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