Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

People living in their cars
leave behind a lot of trash

Question: The public parking lot on Keawe Street (sided by Pohukaina and Halekauwila streets) is a disgrace. Can anything be done to get the entire area cleaned up and maintained? Much of the trash comes from a few homeless people who live out of their automobiles on Keawe Street.

Q: For several months, there have been several automobiles parked on Bougainville Drive at nights where people are sleeping in the vehicles. They leave in the mornings to some other location, only to return at nights. The problem is the litter they leave behind on the street and in the park (Aliamanu Park) next to the roadway. Is there a number for the city to report this?

The public parking lot on Keawe Street, between Pohukaina and Halekauwila streets, has had complaints about trash. To report trash problems, call the city Complaint Office at 523-4381.

A: To report trash problems, call the city Complaint Office at 523-4381.

The city Division of Road Maintenance can't afford to have roving crews looking for roadside trash, especially since the Department of Facility Maintenance, under which it falls, suffered a $1 million budget cut this year, according to city spokeswoman Carol Costa.

Instead, the public can help by identifying problem areas, she said.

"We also welcome community participation in cleaning neighborhoods," Costa said, noting that many community groups already do help out.

"We encourage all concerned parties to pitch in and volunteer their time to help pick up litter, trash and other discarded items that are carelessly left along our roadways and empty lots."

Meanwhile, the overall problem cited in both complaints -- the homeless -- is not as easy to address.

"It's a continual battle, and we take enforcement action," said police Maj. Michael Tucker of the litterers. "But we can't do any more than what the law allows."

Tucker, of the Honolulu District, was responding specifically to the first complaint, but said it holds for the second one and other areas of the island, as well. When beat officers checked shortly after receiving the Kokua Line complaint, they found the homeless had moved from the Bougainville area.

"The law only allows citations," Tucker explained, so the violators are cited for such things as littering, living in their cars and/or not moving their cars every 24 hours.

On Keawe Street, for example, the vehicles, some of them looking "pretty derelict," are periodically moved. "If they move it 50 feet, that's what the law requires," Tucker said.

Asked how people who obviously can't afford a home can manage to pay for citations, he said that's one of the things homeless advocates criticize police for.

"They say we're picking on them (the homeless), but we cannot, as a matter of policy, ignore violations when they're brought to our attention," he said. "That's something between the courts and the prosecutors and the people that are cited."

Police are aware of people's circumstances, Tucker said, because many of us "are maybe a paycheck away from being homeless ourselves." The Honolulu Police Department has an outreach worker for the homeless and police often will do referrals to social agencies, he said.

But it often comes down to choice, Tucker said, noting that many don't want or don't take advantage of the help offered and they can't be forced to accept it.

Although it may be obvious the homeless may be causing the problem, police cannot arrest someone simply for being homeless.

"If it was you or me (caught littering or living in a car), we'd get a citation," Tucker said. "That's the most we're going to do. We'll address criminal complaints, but we're not going to do any more than we're entitled to. That's a fair check and balance on the police."

Q: I live and work in Moiliili and have noticed a lot of people loitering near Puck's Alley and 7-Eleven. Every day and night I see homeless people, young and old people dealing drugs and selling stolen items on Kalo Lane. I think the most disturbing thing I see is small children there day and night sometimes with no supervision. Although I have placed calls to the police -- and I am sure I am not the only one who has called HPD in the past -- they are still there. There should be no reason for me to be afraid to walk around in my own neighborhood for fear of being ripped off, because there are a lot of reports of that sort of things happening also in this area. Who do I call now for help with this problem?

A: You could try bringing your concerns before the McCully/Moiliili Neighborhood Board and having the community work to resolve the situation.

Police say they are regularly patrolling the area and that if you do witness a crime, to call them at 911.

Recently, they issued at least six parking citations and investigated an attempted burglary in the area, but have not caught anyone dealing drugs or selling stolen items, said Honolulu police officer Paul Nakajo.

The homeless tend to get blamed for many things, he noted, sometimes not always justifiably.

Nakajo emphasized they cannot be picked up simply for being homeless. They have to be suspected of or caught committing a specific crime. Honolulu's vagrancy law was done away with a long time ago, he noted. "It's not illegal to be homeless."

When police do "chase them out" of an area, they simply move to another place. In your area alone, there have been complaints about the homeless congregating at Ala Wai Field, Stadium Park, Moiliili Field and near the Hawaiian Dredging building on Kapahulu Avenue.

Useful phone numbers

Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered.
E-mail to

E-mail to City Desk

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