State to step up homeless outreach, enforcement at Kakaako, Kewalo parks

Local News

The plan to clear out the Kakaako Makai homeless encampment is not working as well as the state hoped.

Nearly half of the homeless population has moved to surroundings areas.

Of the 293 people who were living there, service providers say 130 individuals have relocated to Kakaako Waterfront Park and Kewalo Basin Park. An estimated 90 individuals (two-thirds) are now at Kakaako Waterfront Park and an estimated 40 individuals (one-third) are now at Kewalo Basin Park.

Now, the governor is calling for help.

On Monday, Gov. David Ige signed a supplemental proclamation that paves the way for coordinated outreach efforts by service providers and enforcement of park rules.

In a press conference, Ige announced the state will do a more “assertive” push to get the homeless off the streets, and want to team up with the Hawaii Community Development Authority and state sheriffs to address the problem.

“I was personally in park last Friday to walk through and look at situation in Kakaako. We do know we want to be able to respond quickly so that we don’t allow the encampment to again build,” Ige said.

This population has consistently been offered shelter and services during the continued outreach in the area, the state said. Since Oct. 16, 11 additional individuals from Kakaako have been placed in shelters or permanent housing.

However, despite multiple efforts, state officials say many individuals decline help.

Outreach providers passed out fliers to families at Kakaako Waterfront Park Monday. The fliers inform the homeless that they are violating park rules, and list numbers to the Institute for Human Services, Next Step Shelter, and Lighthouse Outreach Center in Waipahu.

Enforcement of park closure hours is set to begin as early as Nov. 12.

“Nobody really talks about it. They just wait. Cleanup, then we all leave,” said Isaiah Totia, who lives at Kakaako Waterfront Park.

Scott Morishige, the governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness, says he’s been tracking where most of the Kakaako homeless refusing help are going.

Some have cropped up at Ala Moana Beach Park during the day, and park users have noticed.

“The population is getting worse. The higher population of homeless, it will keep going in circles, and they’ll branch out sooner or later,” said Manoa Valley resident Doug Esteben.

Some of the ones living at Kakaako Waterfront Park tell KHON2 they don’t trust the state.

“They’re the ones causing trouble, but they blame it on the homeless. I used to do that, but not no more, because now I know how it feels,” said Totia.

Outreach providers say they have a plan. “It’s a single, simple answer: trust. All the services we provide are voluntary. To get people engaged requires us to build a certain level of trust with people,” said Partners in Care chair Greg Payton.

The supplemental proclamation supports a coordinated response that includes continued education of the homeless population regarding the availability of services and compassionate relocation efforts.

“Even if they are to relocate to another area, at least now there’s a connection made with outreach workers to continue providing services,” Morishige said. “They know where the individual has relocated to, and there are steps being made to guide that person to eventually to permanent housing.”

There is no additional funding connected to this supplemental proclamation.

The governor signed the Oct. 16 emergency proclamation after state agencies identified $1.3 in funding to be allocated to existing homelessness programs that promote permanent housing.

The state says it will continue to monitor the availability of shelter space as it prepares to enforce closure hours at Kewalo Basin and Kakaako Waterfront parks.

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