The City began clearing homeless encampments along the Pearl Harbor Bike Trail today fronting Neal Blaisdell Park. As HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports, it’s the latest action to restore public spaces for residents on O’ahu.
A City Department of Facility Maintenance crew removes large makeshift wooden structures, tents and building material lining both sides of the Pearl Harbor Historic Trail. Fifty-seven year-old Joe, who would not give his last name, gathered his belongings from a shelter built 3 years ago.
“My old lady did most of the work. I built some of the frame on the bottom but she built everything else on it. She made it her own way. So we had good drainage, bamboo, we got a front view of the ocean. Ah, too bad it all has to end.”
The City has full jurisdiction of the historic trail following a formal agreement with the Navy. Mayor Kirk Caldwell says enforcement of the stored property and nuisance ordinance is a key part of his administration’s compassionate disruption strategy for homelessness.
“If we don’t enforce, a place grows larger and larger and larger. And those who need help are preyed upon. And those who live here and pay taxes are denied a place that was built for everybody. Enforcement is part of the action. To say it’s not the solution to homelessness but I can promise you, if we did nothing, we’d have a bigger problem and it would be a very tragic and sad problem. We’re not going to allow that to happen.”
The Neal Blaisdell Park will remain closed until September 1st. The Trail will be cleared in three phases during that period. Facility Maintenance Chief Engineer, Ross Sasamura, says the City’s efforts have delivered results.
“Our cost is approximately $750-thousand per year to operate dedicated crews that actually enforce the stored property and sidewalk nuisance ordinances. Since 2013, our crews have removed 2.4 million pounds of trash and debris off of city streets and about 8-thousand shopping carts off of city streets.”
Facility Maintenance will be adding a 3rd crew in a few months. Meanwhile, the city is increasing housing first units, rapid re-housing funds and enabling state and city shelters to accept pets. City executive director of Housing, Marc Alexander, says outreach workers will do all they can to help.
“Every month, there are 5-to-6 hundred empty shelter beds available on O’ahu. So we have shelter beds. And we will help them with a particular barrier, we address it with the shelter to try to help them get in a better place.”
Honolulu City Councilmember Brandon Elefante, who represents the area, says the Historic Trail is a gem on O’ahu.
“This is something that our office has been working on for over 3 years now so we can envision how this trail can be a world class destination where it’s a multi-use trail from Kupuna to Keiki to people that wanna use the trail to walk, bike or come out here for a nice run.”
Meanwhile, Joe packs his fishing gear on his bike and contemplates the future.
“We have 4 dogs. That’s our babies and we’re not gonna get separated from them. They’re like our kids because we never have kids together. We’ve been together going on 19 years.”
For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.