Shuffled around


POSTED: Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tim Cook said he has been robbed at gunpoint, suffered staph infections and had his skull split open with a chain while living homeless in Kapiolani Park for the past decade.

Those harrowing experiences only skim the surface of his hardships after his wife committed suicide.

Despite the dangers and city's recent closures of the park, Cook, 54, said he plans to stay.

The city started closing the park mauka of Kalakaua Avenue, from midnight to 5 a.m. daily yesterday. Sections of the park makai of Kalakaua have been closed from 2 to 5 a.m.

The actions allow the city to maintain the parks for residents and tourists, said Les Chang, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

“;We're not working on just the homeless problem,”; he said. “;We're working on the maintenance of the park.”;

Some organizations working with the homeless believe closing Kapiolani is forcing them to relocate to other parks or move under bridges or into the mountains. While space is available at the Institute for Human Services, some choose not to go there.

“;It's like being warehoused,”; said Cook.

Cook, an independent contractor, spends about $900 a month on bills that include a $300 monthly payment for his Nissan sport utility vehicle, in which he sleeps while parked near the tennis courts.

“;How can I afford to pay rent?”; he said, emphasizing that more affordable housing and well-paying jobs are needed.

Closing the park, he added, is not a logical approach, saying park users are not there at those hours. “;It's all about appearances,”; he said.

Craig Thistleton, a mental health outreach specialist of the Waikiki Health Center, said the night closings do not make sense. Homeless people are just going to wander around until 5 a.m. and return to the park.

“;It's like shuffling them from one place to another,”; he said.

“;It's just stupid. I don't understand the policy at all,”; said Thistleton, who is part of the center's Care-a-Van Homeless Outreach Program, which provides hygiene products and medical assistance to the homeless. “;What tourists are out here from 2 to 5 in the morning?”;