In response to the city’s efforts to force them out of Waikiki, the homeless appear to be migrating out to Honolulu International Airport — an ironic consequence to the city’s attempts to shield the homeless from the view of tourists. The homeless are now the first thing that visitors see when they arrive on the island.

Hawaii News Now reports that as many as 100 homeless people are now sleeping in the terminals, which are open to the public. Airport employees say that they begin showing up by bus at around 10 p.m. 

Last month, the city passed a law that bans sitting and lying on sidewalks in Waikiki, ramping up its efforts to force the homeless out of the district where hotels and local businesses have complained that the homeless are hurting tourism.

Homeless Waikiki man Kalakaua Ave black & white

A homeless man passed out on park bench along Kalakaua Avenue.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

The migration of the homeless to the airport is upsetting airline employees. 

“With the shifts I work, I see them getting ready for bed time and when they are waking up in the morning, I hear them discuss what area they want to sleep in,” one flight attendant told Hawaii News Now. “One night I witnessed a domestic argument between a man and a woman fighting over a blanket.”

The homeless can’t be legally forced to leave the airport, according to the state Department of Transportation. 

Critics of efforts to prod homeless out of Waikiki have argued that it just pushes the problem into other areas of Oahu, creating a Whack-A-Mole type situation. 

The homeless also began sleeping on the beach at Fort DeRussy after the city passed the sit-lie ban. The Waikiki beach is managed by the state, allowing the homeless to avoid city camping prohibitions. 

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is considering transferring control of the beach area to the city so officials can kick the homeless out. 

About the Author