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Honolulu Councilmember Ozawa: Homeless Task Force to Clear Illegal Encampments

Wayne Yoshioka

The Honolulu City Council is urging the formation of a Task Force to clear illegal homeless camps.  HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports. 


Honolulu City Councilmember Trevor Ozawa represents District IV, East O’ahu, from Hawai’i Kai to Ala Moana Beach Park.   He introduced a resolution to urge the formation of a joint city-state task force to break-up unlawful encampments.

“I get a lot of calls whereby there’s jurisdictional issues.  It took me over a year-and-a-half to handle Ala Moana and Atkinson Boulevard because somebody was saying that part of the intersection in which 3 people were living with propane tanks and a flat screen TV and a generator was not my issue.  The state said it wasn’t theirs; the city said it wasn’t theirs and, yeah, it’s a no-man’s land.  If everybody’s there it doesn’t matter whose it is.  Just  get the job done.  No excuses.  We’ll all do it together.”

The Mayor’s Office of Housing director, Mark Alexander, says the City supports the intent of Ozawa’s resolution.  But city and state agencies are already aligning and coordinating their efforts.

“Relevant offices in the state and city now meet regularly.  And we speak directly about specific cases in specific areas.  We’re not yet fully successful, to be sure.  But we are working through the various barriers.  And we believe in being barrier busting.”

But, Ozawa says his goal is not coordination in the office but coordination out in the field where the encampments are.

“I look at the point in time and I think we’re not doing enough.  We continue to increase our homelessness on O’ahu every single year.  I’m getting so frustrated with it that it’s to a point that this is at least another step, another tool to help us strengthen those relationships, formalize them and try to do something different.  Because what’s been happening has not been improving.”

City Housing director Alexander, countered, by saying homelessness is on the decline in many communities,

“The areas of increase were actually in the North Shore and the two Windward areas where we had much better volunteers.  The total increase on O’ahu for this point-in-time count was 19 individuals; 0.4 percent.  Nineteen is still more than last year.  That is correct it makes us a little closer to 5-thousand.”

The City Council’s Public Health, Safety and Welfare Committee approved the resolution.   The Committee also passed Bill 6, which would ban the use of mobile electronic devices by pedestrians in a crosswalk.   HPD Traffic Captain, Thomas Taflinger.

“The bill clearly states that as a pedestrian crosses the street, he cannot be looking at the mobile device.  Definitely protects the driver, I mean, who would be driving a car and as you start to make your turn, a pedestrian who is looking at the phone walks in front of your vehicle.  That can happen and it does happen.”

Committee Chair Brandon Elefante introduced the bill and says the public should be educated about the law prior to enforcement.

“As the advancements in technology, you see it more and more, where people are distracted and maybe not paying attention to their surroundings.  While we have laws in place for motorists, it’s also a shared responsibility with the pedestrians as well as to look both ways when they do cross the street.”

Both measures advance to the Full City Council for final passage, June 7th.    Wayne Yoshioka,  HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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