The 2018 Point in Time Count released Monday indicated a nearly 10 percent drop in homelessness on O’ahu. But, as HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports, those who continue to live on the streets are in a very difficult place.
Mother Waldron Park in Kaka’ako is lined with makeshift encampments along its perimeter. Forty-five year old Agnes Totoa, lives in the park and is getting ready to move her family’s belongings.
“The cops, they come in the morning, they tell us we have to get all our stuffs out and we can’t have certain things, wagons, or it depends. I’m just tired of it. They’re mean to us. They don’t think so but they’re mean.”
The Totoa family lived at the homeless shelter for the 90-day limit and was later swept out of the Kaka’ako Waterfront Park. Twenty-four year-old Shanice Na’o has 3 young children and lives with Totoa’s nephew. The police wake them up in the middle of the night…shining flashlights in their faces.
“You know, we are actual human beings that has feelings. They call us cockroaches. They say we’re a bother. It frustrates us and it hurts us, you know. We wake up, we cry and it hurts. And you know we have to travel with our kids and that’s hard, you know?”
Alani Api’o has been working with the houseless in McCully, Waimanalo and Waianae. He says all of us need to embrace the houseless and help them find a way to self-regulate in safe zones.
“What the houseless need at a very basic level, the majority of them, is and ability to be in a community of some kind. Even if that community is living under tarps and tents in the middle of Kaka’ako.”
Darcie Scharfenstein is a volunteer who helped with the 2018 point in time count in Wai’anae. She says Ohana Zones are promising if we honor their design and leadership.
“As long as it’s driven by the people who are going to be living in Ohana Zones or safe communities, I think that’s the key to building those communities properly and for the long term.”
But, earlier this week, Mayor Kirk Caldwell told reporters that Homeless Sweeps will continue and the goal is to wear down those who choose to live on the streets and break the law.
“And when they violate those laws, we are going to go after them. Whoever they are. Whether they have a home or not. In fact we’re looking at additional tools to strengthen our ability to do more in Waikiki and the West Side. And my hope, is that some of those folks who refuse to go to shelters and follow rules will give up, move in, and follow rules.”
But…American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney, Wookie Kim, says the government’s treatment of the homeless is being monitored.
“With each day, the City and the State, are passing laws that basically expand the web that can possibly entrap the homeless. And we will be looking out for how this is actually implemented and how those laws look like.”
Meanwhile, Na’o and her family intend to continue to live on the streets because they have nowhere else to go.
“We try to stay civil every day. But these cops, harassing, it’s tiring.”
For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.