- Special Projects
A woman named Duchess sat in a broken lawn chair in front of the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center in Kakaako with tears in her eyes Thursday as city workers loaded up mattresses and other belongings of scores of homeless people, including children, who had set up camp along Ohe Street near Kakaako Gateway Park.
Duchess said she had pneumonia and asthma, and was having trouble moving.
It was one of many police enforcement actions that the homeless have experienced in recent months as the city tries to clear streets and parks and prod the homeless to enter shelters. Some homeless people refuse to go to shelters, and sometimes space is unavailable. There are an estimated 1,600 homeless people on Oahu.
But this time, Duchess and some of the other homeless people claimed they were being forced to move because “Hawaii Five-0” wants to film in the area.
After the operation, workers posted “No Parking” signs along the sidewalks that read “Eye Productions,” the show’s production company, according to Raina Whiting, a homeless outreach worker for In the Streets, who sent photos of the signs to Civil Beat.
Officials at both the state and city film offices, as well as officers on the scene, denied that the operation was prompted by “Hawaii Five-O’s” filming schedule.
Jeff Downer, an executive producer for the show, said it was shooting a car chase scene in the area Saturday and Monday. However, the city had already planned the Kakaako operation, he said, otherwise the production would have found another location.
“We would not force the homeless to move to shoot ‘Hawaii Five-0,’” said Downer. “They had the (enforcement action) already on the books.”
“Hawaii Five-O” or not, outreach workers who have been assisting the homeless in the area said Thursday’s police operation seemed to mark an escalation in the city’s tactics to disrupt the homeless in Kakaako.
Whiting said that there hadn’t been a major enforcement action in Kakaako for months. She estimated the number of homeless living in Kakaako had swelled to about 200 people since the city began enforcing nuisance laws in Waikiki, including a ban on sitting and lying on the sidewalks.
“We would not force the homeless to move to shoot ‘Hawaii Five-0.’” — Jeff Downer, show’s executive producer
The Honolulu City Council plans to take a final vote Friday on a bill that would extend the sit-lie ban to commercial areas throughout Oahu — although Kakaako isn’t included.
Duchess, who didn’t want to provide her last name, said she would move her tent and other belongings to a spot she had across the street for the day. Then, she said, she and others would likely return at nightfall.
But many of the homeless people Civil Beat spoke to said they didn’t know where they would go for now, they just knew that they had to keep moving as officers stood watch.
Within a couple hours, the park lawns and sidewalks all along Ohe Street were littered with children’s toys, dirty diapers, blankets, pill bottles, half-broken-down tents, pots and pans and trash. Laundry that had been hung along a fence to dry had been taken down. In some areas, the air wreaked of urine and the rotting scent emitted by garbage trucks.
Kakaako’s sprawling homeless camp had become home to entire families. Some children played with their toys as their parents packed up their belongings, while others cried, seemingly distraught about being uprooted once again. Dogs waited patiently for their owners.
A police officer looked out across the lawn and said, “Look at this place, it’s terrible.”
Asked where the homeless were supposed to go, he said, “I don’t know.”