Homeless Outreach Tents Move To Old Stadium Park, Prompting Residents' Concerns
Honolulu officials set up six tents at the Old Stadium Park Monday as part of its mobile homeless outreach program. Nearby residents are optimistic it will address homelessness, but they also have concerns.
The Homeless Outreach and Navigation for Unsheltered Persons or HONU pilot program started at the Waipahu Cultural Garden Park in December as one approach the city is taking to address homelessness.
City officials say the program helped more than 150 people get into permanent housing or shelters during its 75-day operation in Waipahu. Individuals and families are offered food, showers, and shelter – as well as housing services – regardless of time or day.
The city and Honolulu Police Department hope to achieve similar success in Mo’ili’ili. The program is designed to serve about 60 to 100 people at a time and run for a maximum of 90 days before moving to another location.
While the program is at the Old Stadium Park, HPD Captain Mike Lambert says the police will increase their presence to help with homeless outreach and law enforcement.
"Part of this project being here, you’d only have one beat man responsible for this whole area," Lambert said. "What’s going to happen is, since we’re here, we’re going to have increased teams that go out.
"One group is going to be out there offering outreach and, perhaps the following day, there’s gonna be another team doing enforcement. So we’re going to continue in this outreach-enforcement model."
Neighborhood Board Chair Tim Streitz supports the program at the park but said some residents are worried.
"I know there’s some people that are skeptical of that, or just not wanting to bring in more services they feel would attract more homeless to the area," Streitz said. "Although, from my perspective, it's teams like the HONU project is really not necessarily designed to bring any more homeless to the area, but to allow more of a consolidated, organized approach to addressing the homeless."
Streitz said residents are also concerned that the McCully-Mo’ili’ili Library, which is due for renovation at the end of this month, may attract more homeless people.
"That’s also been a hot spot in the back of that parking lot. That had a lot of issues over the years, and so, I think, there’s justifiable concern. When that is closed for renovations, that might become another hot spot – or the situation might get worse over there," he said.
Streitz said the community wants to make sure that the HONU tents are only temporary and that the park is returned to residents for their use. He says the neighborhood board is working with HPD and the city to address those concerns.
The city has not announced where the HONU tents will move to next after Old Stadium Park. But Mayor Kirk Caldwell has said he expects to see the HONU program in a park in his neighborhood of Manoa as well.