While new places to relocate homeless people were being talked about at the Capitol on Monday, more of them were displaced a few miles away — this time, from an encampment under the H-1 freeway by the Hawaii Department of Transportation.
Gov. David Ige said his leadership team is considering a number of potential plans for temporarily housing homeless people, including expanding the Next Step homeless shelter in Kakaako and utilizing the planned site of the Liliha Civic Center at the old Oahu railway station in Iwilei.
But no details have been worked out for any of the sites, the governor said.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
“The most important thing for any of these sites is that it should be (for) a short-term, emergency situation,” Ige said. “Our objective always is to get (homeless people) into a stable, permanent environment. So any of these sites we’re looking at would be transitional and short-term.”
Ige added that his leadership team, which met for the second time Monday, isn’t ruling out the idea of taking over the Hilo Hattie property on Nimitz Highway.
The 85,000-square-foot site, which was in bankruptcy proceedings, had been proposed as the location of a “one-stop homeless shelter” for up to 800 people, but the city decided not to make a bid on it last week, saying the cost of leasing it was “prohibitive.”
But the property has since been claimed back by its creditor — The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation — and Mayor Kirk Caldwell, a member of the governor’s leadership team, said there’s “a potential to negotiate a more fair lease.”
A crew from the Hawaii Department of Transportation clears out the area at Harding and Kapahulu across from the Market City Shopping Center on Monday as part of its semi-annual sweep of state land it oversees.
Rui Kaneya/Civil Beat
Sweeping Under the Freeway
Meanwhile, the Hawaii Department of Transportation began its semi-annual sweep of land it oversees Monday and cleared out two dump-truck loads of debris from the area under the H-1 overpass at the intersection of Harding and Kapahulu avenues where about 20 people were living until recently.
Though the department’s plans were known in advance, about a half dozen people were still living at the encampment Sunday.
In recent weeks, the area had attracted a community of about a dozen tents across from the Market City Shopping Center.
Sakahara said the sweep of DOT land will continue for the next couple of weeks in “places that have seen problems (with trespassing) in the past or any new locations that the public has alerted us to.”
No Widespread Exodus Yet for Kakaako
For its part, the city is keeping up with its regular sweeps, but Caldwell said the Kakaako encampment is unlikely to be cleared out right away. “We want to begin the enforcement once we have a plan,” he said.
But Caldwell added: “If we do it in a phased way, in a bite-sized way — we’re talking about maybe 15, 20 folks at a time — there is shelter spaces available on any given night.”
Ige said the expansion of Next Step potentially represents the “most immediate project to get increased capacity for the households” in Kakaako.
“We’re looking at what would be the quickest way we can expand and take more homeless on that specific site,” Ige said. “The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has been working with us, and they seem willing to allow some of the other leases in that area to be terminated — whenever the leases are due — and we would be able to expand that site.”
The governor added that the Liliha Civic Center site also holds “great promise.”
“It has access to most important items that we need, and we actually found that we actually provide some services in adjacent buildings, which would really allow us to be able to provide access to services directly rather than having to work with providers,” Ige said.
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