City aims to clear houseless from Kakaako makai

Sit-lie enforcement will resume next week as the city makes a concerted effort to displace houseless families from their current encampment in the under-development neighborhood.

Will Caron

The Department of Facility Maintenance (DFM) is spending its time today going around Kakaako makai posting a notice informing the houseless community that has taken refuge there that sidewalk nuisance and stored property enforcement will resume next week, beginning Tuesday, September 8—I kid you not—“weather permitting.” If it’s a nice day out, folks, expect to be displaced from your current place of refuge. If there’s a hurricane, well, good luck.

The notice states that enforcement action will occur over the course of several weeks or months and will start in the vicinity of Ohe Street and Cooke Street, from Ilalo Street to Ala Moana Boulevard. The enforcement action will occur in phases and will cover sidewalks and other City property from and including the makai side of Ala Moana Boulevard to the ocean, and from Forrest Avenue to the east end of Ilalo Street. This neighborhood has become a refuge for a large population of Hawaii’s houseless, many of whom are in family units.

The city says it will hand out its Oahu Homeless Help Card and blue pouches that can be used to store important documents such as IDs and medication. The loss of these items during the city’s sit-lie enforcement raids on houseless encampments has been a major problem for the houseless community, as has been recovering confiscated property. The question of whether the sit-lie laws are constitutional also remains a central objection to the laws by houseless advocates who maintain they do much more harm than good. Where the large Kakaako makai houseless community will move to now remains an unknown.

Enforcement will begin on the streets mentioned above and will expand in a phased approach in subsequent weeks to the other streets of Kakaako makai, with specific locations and timing announced later. There are sidewalks in Kakaako makai that the city does not have jurisdiction over, but the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) has provided the city with a formal “right of entry” that allows the city to enforce its laws on the sidewalks that the state agency has jurisdiction over.

According to the city, the notices are being posted and distributed in Chuukese, English, Marshallese and Samoan. The state coordinator on homelessness, Scott Morishige, says he is verifying that shelter space exists for the individuals and families affected by this first phase of enforcement. “Service providers have been asked to work with individuals and families in this area to help them find shelter this week before enforcement begins,” according to the city. Advocates maintain that, for many houseless individuals and families, shelters—such as they are—are not desirable or, in many cases, viable options.

The city has asked media wishing to cover the flier posting and handout to “be respectful of the individuals receiving the notices,” a statement many may find both ironic and distasteful considering the city’s history with sit-lie laws, to say nothing of a certain state representative who clearly needs that reminder more than the media does.