'Cleaning up' homeless seen as an aim of park refurbishment
Closures around the island appear to have shifted the problem to North Shore beaches
The city will clean beach parks on the North Shore and Thomas Square in town, meaning homeless living there will have to move on.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced yesterday that Thomas Square will be closed for renovations Aug. 20-24. The city then wants to close the park at night. In about two months the city will clean selected beach parks between Mokuleia and Velzyland. Community leaders said they welcome the move to fix aging restrooms and other park facilities and address the explosion of homeless people that have moved into North Shore beach parks in recent months.
Mel Maeshiro, who occasionally takes Benny, his 14-year-old Shih Tzu, to Thomas Square for walks, welcomes news that the city will give the park a face lift.
But he worries what will happen to the homeless when the city closes Thomas Square for four days in August. Officials will also close the park at night.
Keith Delaney, who lives in the park, said the cleanup is just a guise to get the homeless out of the park.
"I guess I would have to sleep in the street," said Delaney, 44, who has myriad health problems and uses a wheelchair. "I got no place to go."
Wearing a black cowboy hat, Randi Magnusson, 53, another park resident whom his friend called "the mayor of Thomas Square," said the homeless problem will not be solved until affordable housing alternatives are found, because shelters are full. "If they like all of us to move out of here, then they should find us somewhere to live."
Mayor Mufi Hannemann also is targeting selected North Shore beach parks for cleanup.
Mike Lyons of Haleiwa noted that the world-renowned beach parks on the North Shore draw thousands of tourists, especially during the winter surf season.
"The parks and restrooms are definitely in need of much more maintenance and much more care because they are so heavily used," said Lyons, chairman of the North Shore Neighborhood Board. "Our parks are definitely in dire need of cleaning up, fixing up."
But community leaders also have seen the homeless population in North Shore beach parks skyrocket in recent months.
Jacob Ng, another member of the neighborhood board, recently toured the area surrounding Haleiwa Alii Beach Park with a fellow resident, and "lo and behold, there were about 200 or 250 cars that night. And she told me that she was real concerned that (the homeless) people there are taking up space, and the community don't have access to the use of that area, especially the fishermen and the weekend recreational people."
Hannemann announced plans to clean up Thomas Square and the North Shore beach parks during a ceremony yesterday to thank and shake the hands of city Parks Department workers who spent the previous two days landscaping, steam-cleaning restrooms and filling potholes at Ala Moana Park.
Last year, a major renovation at the park led to the relocation of the homeless who camped there. After the work was completed, the city began closing the park at night.
Later in the year, the city worked to refurbish beach parks along the Leeward Coast, and hundreds of homeless people were moved out.
North Shore leaders said they believe many of the former Leeward homeless are now on the North Shore.
Hannemann said the city has not yet decided which North Shore beach parks will be subject to the cleanup or whether any of the parks should be closed at night. Hannemann said announcing the cleanup months ahead of time would give the state and organizations that serve the homeless time to collaborate with the city on a plan to assist the homeless.