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Kapiolani closures 'shifting' homeless


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POSTED: Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In sprucing up and closing sections of Kapiolani Park recently, the city “;is just shifting”; the homeless around, says Craig Thistleton, mental health outreach specialist for the Waikiki Health Center.

Some clients have either moved to the Waianae side of the beach center or the mauka side of the park near the tennis courts, Thistleton said.

“;It's hard but they have options,”; he said, adding that specialists inform the homeless of available beds at shelters.

A few homeless men decided to head to the Institute for Human Services in the past few weeks since the city began its cleanup, said spokeswoman Kate Bepko.

“;We're prepared to help more people that have been displaced due to the cleanup at the park,”; she said, noting about 60 beds are available at the men's shelter and 20 beds are available at the women's shelter.

The cleanup was prompted due to complaints from area residents, tourists and businesses of vagrants who frequent or live at the park. “;The community is happy with what we're doing,”; said Les Chang, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

While some park users say some of the homeless people are harmless, others commandeer picnic tables and damage comfort stations.

A section of Kapiolani Park was closed yesterday as the city made repairs to comfort stations and conducted landscaping work.

The grassy area fronting Queen's Surf Beach between the Waikiki Aquarium and Kapiolani Beach Center was temporarily shut down to the public as city workers scattered fertilizer on the ground.

Comfort stations and pavilions along Kuhio Beach and in Kapiolani Park will be temporarily closed a week at a time starting yesterday for cleanup, painting and repairs.

The city will also implement night closures at Kapiolani Park, mauka of Kalakaua Avenue from midnight to 5 a.m. daily, starting April 20. Sections of the park makai of Kalakaua Avenue are being closed from 2 to 5 a.m.

Many homeless people like B.J. Kam, 52, do not want to go to a shelter.

Kam has lived on the mauka side of Kapiolani Park for four years and has no plans of moving elsewhere. “;If they give me a ticket, I'll (still) sleep here,”; said Kam.

Thistleton said the number of homeless men and women in Waikiki has possibly doubled in the last seven years.

It is getting worse, he said.