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  • Ige’s Team to Relocate All Homeless Families From Kakaako by the End of Year

    · By Rui Kaneya

    Gov. David Ige’s leadership team is aiming to find shelter spaces for about half of all families now living at the Kakaako homeless encampment in the next 60 days.

    Scott Morishige, the governor’s coordinator on homelessness, told reporters Tuesday that the leadership team is focusing on serving the needs of homeless families in Kakaako — with the ultimate goal of relocating all of them by the end of the year.

    According to a survey conducted during the week of Aug. 3, nearly 300 homeless people — including 31 families — were living in Kakaako.

    Scott Morishige, the governor’s coordinator on homelessness, says Gov. David Ige’s leadership team is focusing on serving homeless families at the Kakaako encampment.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Morishige said the leadership team has since helped 43 people — eight families and nine single adults — move into Next Step and Institute for Human Services shelters.

    “I think this is a significant progress, and we’re happy to report this continued forward momentum,” Morishige said.

    More people are expected to be relocated after Labor Day.

    Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced last week that the city will resume the enforcement of the storage property and sidewalk nuisance ordinances in Kakaako on Sept. 8.

    On Tuesday afternoon, the Honolulu Department of Facility Maintenance posted notices about the “phased enforcement” on sidewalks around the one-block area mauka of Ilalo Street between Cooke and Ohe streets — and distributed handouts printed in English, as well as the Chuukese, Marshallese and Samoan languages, to the people in the

  • Caldwell: Honolulu to Resume ‘Phased Enforcement’ at Kakaako Encampment

    · By Rui Kaneya

    Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced Thursday that the city will resume the enforcement of the storage property and sidewalk nuisance ordinances in the Kakaako homeless encampment after Labor Day.

    The “phased enforcement” will begin Sept. 8 on Ilalo Street, adjacent to the highest concentration of tents and tarp structures near the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center on Ohe and Olomehani streets.

    Caldwell said notices about the upcoming action will be posted in the area Monday.

    Mayor Kirk Caldwell announces the city will be resuming sweeps in the Kakaako homeless encampment after Labor Day.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    The announcement of new sweeps, which have not occurred at the encampment since late last year, came after the fifth weekly meeting of Gov. David Ige’s leadership team, which now includes U.S. Reps. Mark Takai and Tulsi Gabbard.

    Scott Morishige, who began his tenure as the governor’s coordinator on homelessness Monday, said the leadership team has been working with homeless service providers to make sure enough shelter spaces are available for up to 25 people — mostly singles and couples — who are expected to be displaced by the initial sweep.

    According to a survey conducted during the week of Aug. 3, nearly 300 people — including 31 families — were living at the Kakaako encampment. The leadership team has so far helped about 10 percent of the population, 28 people, to move into Next Step and Institute for Human Services shelters.

    Caldwell said the city has been in talks with private landowners in the area, such as Kamehameha

  • Ige’s Team Cuts Kakaako’s Homeless Population by 10 Percent

    · By Rui Kaneya

    Gov. David Ige announced Tuesday that his leadership team worked with a group of service providers to relocate about 10 percent of homeless people who were living at the encampment in Kakaako.

    The team found spaces for 28 people — five families and six single adults — at Next Step and Institute for Human Services shelters, where a total of 27 people had recently left and moved into either permanent or longer-term transitional housing.

    According to a survey conducted during the week of Aug. 3, nearly 300 people — including 31 families — were living at the Kakaako encampment.

    Scott Morishige, who officially began his tenure as the governor’s coordinator on homelessness on Monday, said in a statement: “This movement of individuals and families from the streets into temporary shelters is significant because their lives have been changed for the better and because it demonstrates the positive outcomes we can achieve when the city and the state work together. Delayed enforcement in the area helped service providers move more people into shelters.”

    The governor’s leadership team found spaces at Next Step (above) and Institute for Human Services shelters for 28 people who were living at Kakaako’s homeless encampment.

  • Ige’s Team Considers Converting Kakaako Shed Into Temporary Shelter

    · By Rui Kaneya

    Gov. David Ige’s leadership team is considering a plan to convert a maintenance shed owned by the semi-independent Hawaii Community Development Authority into a transitional shelter for homeless families.

    State Sen. Jill Tokuda said Monday that team members visited the shed behind the University of Hawaii medical school in Kakaako earlier in the day and estimated that up to 40 people could be housed there.

    “It is very rough, no doubt, but it’s a structure that, if we are able to quickly start to work on the inside … it could quickly be turned into a usable shelter space — potentially for families,” Tokuda told reporters following the fourth weekly meeting of Ige’s team.

    State Sen. Jill Tokuda, left, and Rep. Sylvia Luke display a picture of the maintenance shed that Gov. David Ige’s leadership team is considering turning into a transitional homeless shelter.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Ige said the shed, which has the basic infrastructure and plumbing needed for a shower and bathroom, is promising but offered no timeline or cost estimates for converting it. The shed is among “roughly three to five” state-owned facilities and parcels that his team is considering for temporarily housing homeless people.

    Ige added that he’s placing a priority on meeting the needs of homeless families, given that there’s “virtually zero space in (existing) shelters for families — it’s all taken up.”

    A survey conducted by Partners in Care, a coalition of 30 homeless service providers on Oahu, found that 31 families — 124 people in

  • Ige Taps Leading Advocate to Be His Homelessness Coordinator

    · By Rui Kaneya

    Gov. David Ige announced that Scott Morishige will be his next coordinator on homelessness Monday, while a legislative leader raised the possibility of emergency state funding to address the problem.

    Morishige, who starts Aug. 24, has been one of Hawaii’s leading voices advocating for homeless people as the executive director of the social service organization PHOCUSED.

    “He brings a wealth of experience … He’s been very much involved with the data collection, coordination of services, and he’ll definitely be able to hit the ground running and really allow us to move forward with the homelessness issue,” Ige said. “We’re very delighted that he has accepted our offer and will be joining the team.”

    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, left, joins the meeting of Gov. David Ige’s homelessness leadership team Monday.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Morishige’s post — statutorily created to oversee the state’s homelessness response system — has been vacant since the end of July, when Ige decided not to extend a contract to Colin Kippen, who was appointed by former Gov. Neil Abercrombie in 2012.

    Ige said he’s expanding the post’s footprint, pledging that he’ll have up to three people working alongside Morishige to “make sure that we can implement the programs and ideas that the leadership team comes up with.” Kippen, by contrast, had a single assistant.

    Morishige has wide-ranging experiences in Hawaii’s nonprofit sector. Before taking the helm of PHOCUSED two years ago, he oversaw the community stabilization initiative at the Hawaii Community Foundation, helping local families cope with economic struggles and

  • City Council Passes Bill That Could Target Kapalama Canal Encampment

    · By Rui Kaneya

    The Honolulu City Council on Wednesday approved a measure that bans camping or putting up tents along “city-owned streams” if doing so creates a public health or safety risk.

    Bill 46 was sponsored by Councilman Joey Manahan, whose district includes Kapalama Canal — the site of a burgeoning homeless encampment with more than 50 tents.

    Also Wednesday, the council signed off on another expansion of the city’s controversial “sit-lie” ban, a series of ordinances prohibiting people from sitting or lying on sidewalks and in pedestrian malls.

    Introduced by Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga, Bill 44 applies the sit-lie ban to two malls — College Walk Mall and Kila Kalikimaka Mall — in her district’s Aala area.

    A growing homeless encampment along Kapalama Canal could be affected by a bill the City Council passed Wednesday.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Both measures were adopted on 7-2 votes — with council members Brandon Elefante and Kimberly Marcos Pine in opposition — despite lingering concerns that they won’t pass constitutional muster.

    Jesse Broder Van Dyke, communications director for Mayor Kirk Caldwell, told Civil Beat that the mayor is “unlikely to sign” Bill 44 because of its legal vulnerability.

    “Mayor Caldwell introduced the first sit-lie bill in Honolulu and supports the concept,” Broder Van Dyke said. “However, he has consistently said … that for sit-lie to be legally defensible in federal court it can only apply to business districts during the hours they are open for business. Mayor Caldwell modeled the Waikiki sit-lie bill after Seattle’s law, which was the first

  • The Homeless: Easier to Say Where They Shouldn’t Be

    · By Rui Kaneya

    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.

    Gov. David Ige talks about his leadership team’s efforts to address homelessness as Mayor Kirk Caldwell and state Sen. Jill Tokuda listen Monday.

    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

  • City Won’t Acquire Hilo Hattie Property for Homeless Shelter

    · By Rui Kaneya

    The city will not purchase the Hilo Hattie property on Nimitz Highway that had been considered for a “one-stop homeless shelter” for up to 800 people.

    Roy Amemiya, the city’s managing director, announced Tuesday that the city did not submit a bid on the property by Monday’s deadline, saying the cost would have been “prohibitive.”

    Honolulu Managing Director Roy Amemiya announces that the city won’t bid on the Hilo Hattie property on Nimitz Highway.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    To acquire “the leasehold interest” in the 85,000-square-foot property, which is under bankruptcy proceedings, the city would have had to pay about $7.6 million initially and then absorb $1.8 million in annual costs, Amemiya said. The figure doesn’t include the cost of providing on-site services, which would have been more than $20,000 per individual annually.

    The proposal to turn the property into a temporary homeless shelter was made in May by two City Council members, Ernie Martin and Joey Manahan.

    Amemiya said the property was ultimately too big to fit into the city’s “scattered site” philosophy. “Already in Kakaako, we have 300 individuals, and we’re starting to see problems with the law, in terms of thefts, assaults, criminal activity. So, to put 800 persons in a building — which is two and a half times the 300 that are at Kakaako — we thought was the wrong approach.”

    Meanwhile, work on the new homeless transitional facility on Sand Island is underway, with the Department of Facility Maintenance almost finished with grading the site.

    Sandy Pfund, who

  • Ige Creates a New Leadership Team to Tackle Homelessness

    · By Rui Kaneya

    Gov. David Ige announced Monday that he was launching an “unprecedented” effort to address the state’s growing homeless problem.

    “The governor’s leadership team on homelessness” is made up of representatives from all government levels — federal, state and city — including the governor; state Sen. Jill Tokuda; state Rep. Sylvia Luke; Rachael Wong, director of the Hawaii Department of Human Services; Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell; Ernie Martin, chair of the City Council; and staffers from the offices of U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz.

    “This isn’t just another committee,” Ige said. “This team is making a commitment to work together to find solutions now. There is something important going on. We are the people responsible for the public’s welfare. This team is meeting face to face to address homelessness, and we are going to hold each other accountable.”

    One conspicuous absentee was Colin Kippen, who announced Monday morning that he’s been told his tenure as the governor’s coordinator on homelessness will expire Friday.

    Gov. David Ige looks at Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell while announcing the formation of “the governor’s leadership team on homelessness” Monday.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Ige said his team will convene on a weekly basis, but no action plan emerged from Monday’s inaugural meeting. There’s no specific timeline for dealing with homeless encampments in Kakaako and elsewhere, he added.

    “There’s no quick fixes on homelessness. No easy answers. We want to be thoughtful in how we move forward,” Ige told reporters.

    “The reality of this position is that (it

  • Tom Brower to Press Charges Against Homeless Teens in Kakaako

    · By Rui Kaneya

    State Rep. Tom Brower announced Thursday that he’s pressing charges against the homeless teens who allegedly attacked him last month in Kakaako.

    Brower, known for once taking a sledgehammer to 30 shopping carts used by homeless people, made his announcement at the corner of Ohe and Olomehani streets — the site where he got into an altercation June 29 and was taken to an emergency room with a head injury, bruised ribs and a laceration above his right eye.

    “We have seen an escalation in the number of assaults in the area, and those who commit these acts need to be held accountable for their actions,” Brower told the reporters.

    State Rep. Tom Brower returns to the site of his attack to announce that he’s pressing charges.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Since the altercation, Brower has been maintaining that he was attacked without provocation. But two boys, ages 14 and 17, told Civil Beat last month that the altercation started because Brower refused to stop taking pictures of their encampment without permission.

    “We asked him nicely to please stop taking pictures. He told us, ‘Just back off,’” said Isaiah Totoa, 17.

    Brower said the photos and videos in his camera would have validated his account of the event, but the boys said they deleted those files when he left the camera at the scene of the altercation.

    “I have no anger toward anyone involved; however this is not just about me,” Brower said. “This is about the health and safety of the public.

  • Endless Sweep: City Keeps Rousting Homeless at a Cost of $750,000 a Year

    · By Rui Kaneya

    At first glance, David Ippen has picked an ideal spot for his business.

    Ippen’s martial-arts school, Taekwondo Honolulu, occupies the site of a former auto-repair shop on a quiet stretch of Isenberg Street — right across from Old Stadium Park at the heart of the McCully-Moiliili neighborhood.

    But the proximity to the park has a drawback: Over the years, Ippen has had his share of troubles with homeless people who have taken up residence there.

    David Ippen, whose Taekwondo Honolulu is across from Old Stadium Park, has run into troubles with homeless people in the area over the years.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    A year and a half ago, for instance, Ippen’s water bill shot up to $400 — more than quadruple the usual amount. It didn’t take him long to figure out what caused it: The water faucet outside his school was being used by homeless people as a makeshift shower at night.

    Once Ippen installed a locking cap on the faucet, the water bill went down, but other troubles persist, he says. Some days, fights break out in the park. Other days, he has to clean up after defecation on the side of the building.

    “I feel for these people; their situation is really sad — but, when they start breaking things and get really loud, saying horrible things to each other, that’s really bad for kids here,” said Ippen, who has about 150 students — 100 of whom are children. “It’s difficult for us, especially because we have so

  • VA Secretary to Landlords: Pitch in to Help End Veteran Homelessness

    · By Rui Kaneya

    Hawaii still has a long way to go in curbing homelessness among veterans.

    While places like New Orleans have practically eliminated veteran homelessness as part of a five-year national goal set by President Barack Obama in 2010, Hawaii has yet to gain a firm foothold in finding homes for hundreds of veterans.

    At the end of June, there were 376 homeless veterans on Oahu, including 129 who were unsheltered, according to Scott Morishige, executive director of the homeless advocacy group PHOCUSED, which helps analyze the state’s Homeless Management Information System database.

    This is why Robert McDonald, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is in Honolulu this week, lending his hands in Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s “Heroes Helping Heroes.”

    Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald urged local landlords and property managers to support the effort to house homeless veterans.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    McDonald told about 70 area landlords and property managers gathered Thursday at Mission Memorial Auditorium that the state needs their help in doing its part to meet the national goal of housing all homeless veterans.

    “Eliminating homelessness in this country is a team sport,” McDonald said. “It can’t be done by the city alone. It can’t be done by the state alone. It can’t be done by the federal government alone. It can’t be done by the private sector alone. It’s got to be done by all of us working together.”

    It’s not that Hawaii hasn’t made some progress. According to PHOCUSED, 368 homeless veterans on Oahu were placed

  • HCDA Hears Tenant Concerns About the Homeless in Kakaako

    · By Rui Kaneya

    For the first time in its history, the Hawaii Community Development Authority waded into the issue of homelessness Wednesday as it held an open discussion on the burgeoning encampment in Kakaako.

    John Whalen, board chairman of HCDA, which oversees the development in Kakaako, said the meeting — while meant only to be “information discussion” — was a first step in getting his agency to take a more active role in addressing the issue.

    The homeless encampment near the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center in Kakaako has grown dramatically in recent months.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    The meeting came less than 10 days after state Rep. Tom Brower, known for once taking a sledgehammer to 30 shopping carts used by the homeless, got into an altercation with a handful of teens from the encampment.

    A large portion of the meeting was devoted to hearing what the area’s three main enterprises — the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center, the University of Hawaii medical school, and 53 By The Sea, a restaurant next to Waterfront Park — have been going through.

    “Kakaako is neither equipped nor appropriate to serve as an unauthorized encampment for hundreds of homeless and should not be used for that purpose.” —  Virginia Hinshaw, UH chancellor emeritus.

    According to the Hawaii Department of Health, the number of tents set up by homeless people around them has gone up dramatically — from 62 in September to 185 in June — since the city began enforcing a series of ordinances prohibiting people from sitting or

  • Will the Hammer Fall on Homeless Encampment in Kakaako?

    · By Rui Kaneya

    Under a scorching sun, Pedro “Pete” Fonseca III was making the rounds.

    It was early Friday afternoon, and the thermometer was ticking past 90 degrees, but Fonseca showed no sign of discomfort as he strolled Ohe Street — the epicenter of Kakaako’s burgeoning homeless encampment, where he’s known as its unofficial “mayor.”

    Clad in a neon-yellow sleeveless shirt covered in paint splatters, Fonseca was using the lunch break from his construction job to check in on his fellow residents — part of his effort to help bring a semblance of law and order to the encampment.

    “Out here, we look out for each other,” Fonseca said.

    The homeless encampment near the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center in Kakaako has grown dramatically in recent months.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    But this self-policing system couldn’t prevent the June 29 incident — when state Rep. Tom Brower, known for once taking a sledgehammer to 30 shopping carts used by the homeless, ended up in an emergency room after getting into an altercation with a handful of teens from the encampment.

    The incident has since brought intense public scrutiny to the encampment — which has nearly tripled in size since late last year — and prompted the Honolulu Star-Advertiser to call for its demolition.

    Fonseca was fatalistic about the possibility of a crackdown.

    “To address these remaining dug-in encampments, we really need more housing.” — Jesse Broder Van Dyke, spokesman for Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell

    “It’s expected to happen. The only thing we’re waiting for is finding out when. Nobody

  • Why Did Tom Brower’s Visit to Homeless Encampment End in Violence?

    · By Rui Kaneya

    State Rep. Tom Brower and two boys who got into an altercation with him at a Kakaako homeless encampment Monday evening told conflicting stories Tuesday about how the legislator ended up in a hospital.

    Brower, who in the past has taken a sledgehammer to shopping carts abandoned by the homeless, said he was attacked without provocation. At a press conference, he told reporters he was walking around to investigate “constituent concerns” regarding public safety and health issues at the encampment.

    Brower said “a guy on a skateboard” approached and punched him “several times in the chest.” Soon, a second person, whom Brower said he didn’t see, joined in the fracas, knocking him down and punching him “a few times.”

    State Rep. Tom Brower says he was attacked without provocation.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Two homeless boys, ages 14 and 17, told Civil Beat on Tuesday morning that the altercation started because Brower was taking pictures of their encampment without permission and refused to stop.

    “We asked him nicely to please stop taking pictures. He told us, ‘Just back off,’” said Isaiah Totoa, 17.

    Totoa added that Brower never identified himself.

    “He said nothing about who he was at all. Never mentioned it once,” Totoa said. “He just kept telling us, ‘I’m here to help you guys.’ … Now I feel bad because I now know who he is. He’s trying to help. But, like I said, we’ve had people come here saying the same shit.”

    Tracy Martin, who lives in a tent nearby but didn’t witness