Diamond Head Cliffs, one of Hawaiiʻs most iconic surfing areas, was the scene of a homeless sweep involving the Honolulu Police Department and 20 groundskeepers from the city Department of Parks and Recreation on Tuesday.
Workers found 13 active homeless encampments, some with tents hanging down the sides of the cliffs and reachable only by ropes. They also found six camps that appeared to be abandoned.
Homeless camper “Blackie” Black, 58, said he has been living in a tent perched on the oceanside above Beach Road for about four years. He is originally from Kau on the Big Island. He said he became homeless after he broke his wrist and lost his job as a carpenter.
Black shrugged and said he had no place to go now. “Thatʻs a part of life,” he said of Tuesday’s sweep
HPD Ofc. Leland Cadoy said the sweep was in response to complaints from neighbors and passersby on Diamond Head Road.
Cadoy said the homeless campers, including Black, were given 24 hours’ notice to move Monday.
“We try to get them to leave on their own and to protect their possessions,” said Cadoy.
Cadoy said some of the camp dwellers swore at officers when they were giving them notice, but on Tuesday they departed peacefully. One woman camper needed medical attention for a breathing problem.
City Parks and Recreation is responsible for the makai side of Diamond Head, while the state Department of Land and Natural Resources governs Diamond Head State Monument on the mauka side above Diamond Head Road.
On March 22, DLNR conducted a massive sweep of the slopes above the road near Diamond Head Lighthouse. About 40 camps were removed and seven homeless people were cited for refusing to move despite six months of warnings and offers of alternative shelter from outreach workers.
A few months later, Curt Cottrell, administrator of the Division of State Parks, told a Diamond Head citizensʻ advocacy group that about a dozen homeless people had returned to set up camp again.
Tuesday’s sweep was directed by the cityʻs Department of Facility Maintenance. Director Ross Sasamura said the last homeless enforcement on Diamond Head Cliffs was March 24, when crews cleared out 11 camps and removed 1.9 tons of trash and 3 cubic yards of metals, including cooking pans and bicycle frames.
Sasmura said the latest sweep of 13 encampments resulted in the removal of nearly 2 tons of trash and 2 cubic yards of metals.
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Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.