State struggles to find contractor to clear Kakaako homeless

Local News

Homeless people in Kakaako have a few more days before the state moves them out.

The state had posted notices in Kakaako Waterfront Park and Kewalo Basin Park to let the homeless know that they will be forced to move as early as Thursday.

But for now, the state is holding off.

“We’re still a bunch of families with kids that don’t have a place to go,” said homeless camper Charade Keane. “We’re still being told we can’t be here. Everybody knows, nobody wants to be a criminal and be on the street or get arrested for being homeless.”

So what’s stopping the state from taking action? We’ve been told everything is in place except for one thing. Officials can’t find a vendor that will clean up and throw away the trash that will be left behind.

Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator, says the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which has jurisdiction over the park, contacted eight different companies to bid on the job.

Not one of them is interested.

As far as everything else needed to move the homeless out of the growing encampment in Kakaako, the state says outreach coordinators have been working with the families, and sheriffs are in place to move out the homeless. But the state has run into an unexpected obstacle.

“Trying to identify a vendor to assist with the disposal of items is a big barrier, but we’re hoping that if there are any potential vendors that do see this and want to contact the state, we’d be interested in opening a dialogue with them,” Morishige said.

When the homeless were moved out of Kakaako Makai last month, crews had to haul away 67 tons of rubbish, which included 106 cubic yards of metal, 41 shopping carts, and hundreds of hypodermic needles.

“There was a significant amount of items that were removed. I know that it does take a lot of time and effort,” said Morishige.

KHON2 spoke with some of the companies that turned down the job, and it’s not just the volume that drove them off. Some are worried about the safety of their workers.

Another problem is liability. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the city when it kicked out the homeless out of Kakaako sidewalks. Vendors don’t want to get sued themselves.

The previous sweep was done by the city’s Department of Facility Maintenance. So we asked if the city can help out the state again.

In response, Department of Facility Maintenance director Ross Sasamura send the following statement:

“The city Sidewalk Nuisance Ordinance/Stored Property Ordinance (SPO/SNO) Enforcement team is responsible for enforcing these city ordinances on city property and rights-of-way across Oahu. Our SPO/SNO enforcement resources are limited and remain focused upon responding to reports from the public to keep city sidewalks and public spaces free and accessible for all. If you observe an unlawful obstruction on city sidewalks or within a city facility, please call the SNO/SPO Enforcement Hotline at 768-3585.”

After making some calls we found a company that has not been contacted by the state.

Andre Betito, general manager of 1-800 Got Junk Oahu, says his company is interested and can handle the job.

“Hauling junk is what we do, so if it’s a bunch of junk in a park that you need gone, I mean, I can’t imagine anything more clear cut that we can handle than a bunch of junk in a park,” he said.

We’re told HCDA and the state will meet with two potential vendors on Monday.

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