RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
B.J. Rapsas, left, and Celeste Kekoolani set up a tent last night in the grassy area near Honolulu Police Department headquarters on Beretania Street made available to the homeless evicted from Ala Moana Park.
Park alternative gets mixed response
Some who have lived at Ala Moana make do without moving to police station space
"Pops," a 70-year-old Korean and Vietnam U.S. Army veteran, grudgingly now forsakes his home of nine years at Ala Moana Beach Park and rides the bus after 10 p.m. and returns to the park after 4 a.m.
"Where are you supposed to be going in the rain?" said Pops, who has been killing time since the city began closing the park at night earlier this week.
"We are the hard-core," he said, surrounded by a little more than a half-dozen park inhabitants taking refuge from the rain under the roof of a concession stand.
Pops, who would not give his name, and a few others said they would not take advantage of another option for the homeless unable to stay in Ala Moana. Mayor Mufi Hannemann made available the grassy area next to the Honolulu Police Department headquarters for the homeless to erect portable tents and spend nights from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
But many of the homeless people who have camped out at City Hall since Ala Moana's night closing began said earlier that they planned to use the space atop the police parking garage at South Beretania and Alapai streets.
About 30 people set up camp at the site last night.
Two portable toilets were added to the two on site at the adjacent Alapai Street bus yard for the nighttime residents.
The Rev. Bob Nakata warned that "there may be more people on (the mayor's) hands than he anticipates."
"Maybe it's good. It tells the community more clearly that something needs to be done. The mayor's offer is good but it's a beginning," he said.
Nakata said he has watched the homeless at City Hall take more control by first making plans for their stay last night at the police property.
"I feel good. They're organizing themselves, so that's important," Nakata said. "Then people like us don't have to be the go-between."
Yesterday, the City Hall campers were appreciative of another offer by the mayor when his aides delivered pastries and a fruit basket as the homeless held signs -- some thanking the community and the mayor -- and waving to passers-by along Punchbowl Street.
"We thank him a lot for that (the food)," said Steve Brooks, one of the men who planned to sleep at the police park.
But the people who are staying at Ala Moana Beach Park, where the number of tents and people living there have noticeably gone down, are not as grateful to the mayor.
"It's been real hectic, deciding where we're going to stay for shelter to get out of the rain," said Cece Inere, 25, seated across from Pops. "We're going to go to another park where it's easier to camp."
Inere and James Kualaau, 36, who have lived at Ala Moana for about a year, have spent evenings since Monday at the shopping center bus stop when they are not moved out by security guards.
The timing of the night closures suits Eugene Cuba. He works as a kitchen cleaner in Waikiki at the same time the park is closed.
"I just sleep here (during the day) because I got nowhere to go," Cuba said.
Church to house some evictees
One of Honolulu's largest churches has offered its premises as a haven for some of the homeless people evicted from Ala Moana Beach Park this week.
About 30 people were invited to stay at Central Union Church in Makiki, said the Rev. Dean Vestal, the church's city missionary. The offer was made to selected families and is not an open invitation, he said.
"Our first priority for shelter will be families with children, the aged and the infirm," said the Rev. Don Hammond, interim minister.
The evictees will be housed in the Parish Hall, part of a $10 million complex that opened two years ago and includes a day-care center for seniors and banquet facilities. Hammond said the hall will be open to the invited people from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily, and a hot supper will be provided each night. Two security personnel will be on site during those hours.
The Ala Moana homeless are known to church volunteers who have provided a hot supper at the park every Thursday evening for more than five years, Vestal said. In recent years the church city ministry has also invited the homeless to lunch and a Bible study class on Wednesdays.
Extra food was prepared last night for the Lenten supper and service, a weekly event attended by church members, who were joined by the people seeking shelter.
Hammond said the haven was offered for one week, and after that, "we will evaluate and determine if this is appropriate help."
"The needs of the homeless people in Honolulu are significant and beyond the ability of any congregation or groups of congregations to resolve," Hammond said.