The Hawai’i Department of Transportation is leading an effort to remove homeless encampments near major traffic corridors. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.
A private contractor, accompanied by State Sheriff deputies and social workers, converged on a homeless encampment above the H-1 Freeway, near the -HNu’uanu YMCA and Pali overpass. Tim Sakahara is the Hawai’i Department of Transportation communications director.
“The state legislature appropriated $2 million for efforts like this, the HDOT matched another 2 million. So, primarily to start out with we are working on the H-1 corridor from the Middle Street merge all the way to Kahala as well as Nimitz Highway from River Street to the Pearl Harbor interchange. And, focusing on those areas either above or adjacent to the roadways.”
The crew removed 4-inch thick concrete tiles used for flooring, tents, a bicycle, moped, and bags of trash. Corinne ‘Aipia has lived on the grassy strip above the H-1 Freeway for 9 months. But a new state criminal trespassing law changed all that.
“Before we could jump back and forth. Like if the City and County used come in and do a sweep, we used to jump on the federal side. And when the federal come, we jump on the City and County. But we can’t do that no more because they have a block on, so they’re shutting down everything.”
Repair crews will fix the broken fences and Sheriff Deputies will patrol the area to keep squatters out. Meanwhile, at the Honolulu City Council, the Governor’s Coordinator for Homelessness, Scott Morishige, told members of the Public Health, Safety and Welfare Committee that the coordinated city, state and federal effort goes beyond breaking up homeless encampments.
“So everytime we go out we make sure that outreach providers are there to make people an offer of services, to conduct them to services to get them off the streets, our ultimate goal is to get people into permanent housing.”
But housing for some of Honolulu’s homeless is the sidewalk on a busy stretch of Nimitz Highway. Fifty-nine year-old Anh Bui has lived near the Nu’uanu Stream Bridge for 3 months. He’s been homeless in California and Hawai’i since the Fall of Saigon in 1975. He was notified by outreach workers yesterday to move.
“They say tomorrow we’re gonna come. Are you ready? But you know where do they expect us to go, you know. From A to B and when you reach Z, you got no choice but to come back to A. Ahh, I don’t know.”
Bui plans to move to Kaka’ako Park but says he’ll be back at Nimitz in a few weeks. Across the street, meat cutter, Daniel Rebujio, says sweeping the homeless is senseless.
“I mean, what’s the point of sweeping them. They’re still gonna be homeless. It’s a waste of money. Honestly. After the $4 million is up what are they gonna do. They gonna come back. So the thing is, why don’t they just stop taking taxpayer’s money and just let them be.”
But, H-DOT communications director Sakahara says the contract crews and sheriff deputies are on call.
“They’ll be coming back out to make sure and to deter people from setting up these illegal camps again. And so, if they are, we’ll go through the process and call the HDOT folks and the contractor will come back out and make sure the area stays clear.”
The current trespassing enforcement action is expected to last one week. Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.