Homeless hang in at park


POSTED: Monday, April 20, 2009

Some homeless people who live in Kapiolani Park decided to ignore yesterday's midnight deadline to break camp and move out.

The city was scheduled to close the portion of the park bounded by Kapahulu, Kalakaua and Paki avenues from midnight to 5 a.m. daily, starting today.

The area includes the Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Shell, Waikiki Bandstand and makai tennis courts.

The overnight closure is part of a program Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced last month to clean up areas of Waikiki. The program will close:

» Pavilions along Kuhio Beach daily from 6 to 9 a.m. for cleaning.

» Other areas in the park temporarily for extensive ground maintenance.

» Restrooms and pavilions for painting and other repairs.

Eleven people were camping yesterday near the tennis courts.

They said they have a contingency plan but didn't want to tip off police. All declined to give their names or to be photographed for fear of being targeted.

“;Sometimes when we're interviewed, the reason why we didn't want pictures, we get leaned on by the police the following day,”; one man said. “;And it's rather hard. They've taken my tent.”;

He said police have a list of names of people who have received warnings or citations. For some of the people on the list, police also have pictures, the man said.

If they are forced to leave the park overnight, some said they may wind up hanging out in front of businesses up the street until they can return.

A city ordinance prohibits camping at any park not designated as a campground. The maximum penalty for violating the ordinance is a $500 fine, 30 days in jail or both.

A bill pending in the City Council would make it illegal for anyone 18 or older to sleep in Kapiolani Park between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Because the penalty can include jail time, the campers said judges do not allow them to plead guilty without first getting assigned a public defender, which requires them to appear in court more than once.

They said everyone who camps in the park mauka of Kalakaua Avenue is a local who has a job but can't afford rent. They said the ones who camp near the beach makai of Kalakaua are transients. They said some people who camp near the Waikiki Shell received cars from donors recently and have been sleeping in them.