I work at Dole Cannery in Iwilei, an industrial neighborhood just outside downtown Honolulu. The area has seen more and more development over the years, with warehouses being replaced by business offices and high-rise apartment buildings.
Along Iwilei Road, a block away from Aala Park (also known for homeless activity) on one side and the Institute for Human Services (the island’s largest homeless shelter and service provider), a homeless encampment was established and continued to grow through the latter half of 2013. At the same time, across the street, Senior Residence at Iwilei was being built, a high-rise apartment building.
My coworkers, some of whom have to walk along Iwilei Rd. from bus stops on N. King street, would regularly report on the size of the encampment, which eventually took over the pedestrian path and forced people to walk in the street. There were news stories over the holidays, and apparently growing complaints from area residents and businesses.
This morning, the City & County of Honolulu (with support from the Honolulu Police Department and the state Sheriff Division) swept in to clear the encampment way. It was a large operation, requiring dozens of city employees and law enforcement officers, and involving a seemingly endless parade of refuse trucks.
What came out of these tents was impressive. Large pieces of furniture, from full-sized beds, dressers and desks to a leather sofa, an ornate, museum-style mirror, and a safe. Many, many tents, several bicycles, and countless wooden pallets. The homeless people that were living there carried away what they could. A few stuck around to watch, and one couple arrived on the scene too late to retrieve their belongings. The man eventually talked his way into a few minutes to grab some items, while the woman started capturing the scene on her phone.
It’s an increasingly familiar sight across Honolulu’s urban core, with homeless encampments gradually growing until they become too large for government officials to ignore. Once cleared from one neighborhood, the homeless relocates to another, biding their time until the next city raid.
After tweeting about the raid (describing it as a police action), the city’s communications director Jesse Broder Van Dyke emailed me the following:
The police are there to keep the peace and don’t get involved unless there is some sort of incident. All of the enforcement of the Sidewalk Nuisance Ordinance and the Stored Property Ordinance is done by a crew from the Department of Facility Maintenance. They remove and store items that are obstructing sidewalks or other city lands under the two ordinances. In your video, you can see the DFM crew removing the items while police stand by. In addition, the State Sheriffs also provided support for today’s enforcement action because some of the lands in that area are under state jurisdiction.
Some other information: Mayor Caldwell has increased these enforcement actions in response to community complaints. DFM crews now enforce several days a week and various times of the day, at unannounced locations where the city receives complaints.
Since 1 July 2013 (when the Sidewalk Nuisance Ordinance went into effect) city crews responded to public complaints regarding sidewalk nuisances on over 200 occasions at the following locations (some locations were associated with multiple complaints with corresponding multiple enforcement actions):
- Inha Park
- Kapiolani Blvd-Atkinson Blvd
- Thomas Square
- Aala Park
- Pauahi St
- Smith St
- Maunakea St
- Hotel St
- Kukui St
- Kuwili St
- Pine St
- Sumner St
- Ala Wai Promenade
- Kalakaua Ave-King St
- Washington Middle School
- Kalakaua Avenue at the site of the old Hard Rock Cafe
- Ilalo St
- Ahui St
- Koula St
- Olomehani St
- Ohe St
- Makahiki Way
- Kalo St
- Coyne St
- Coolidge St
- King St
- Kalakaua Ave- Kapiolani Blvd.
This list was compiled last week and may not include this week’s actions.
The mayor’s Office of Housing works with homeless service providers go to the sites in advance of the enforcement actions and offer shelter space and assistance to those who will accept it.