Illegal campers, homeless
spur sweep of park

Police evict people from
Ala Moana Beach Park
as the city cleans the facilities

By Rod Antone

City officials said complaints about illegal campers and homeless people monopolizing Ala Moana Beach Park facilities prompted an early-morning sweep through the park today.

From midnight to 3 a.m., parks and recreation workers scrubbed and cleaned bathrooms while Honolulu police evicted the people who were said to have been abusing their park privileges. Police estimated that about 100 people camp illegally at the popular beach park on any given night.

"This is not by any means a thing to displace the homeless," said Honolulu police Capt. Ed Nishi. "We have people there who are camping illegally, drinking. There's some drug use.

"We're running into unsanitary conditions out there. ... Initially we will issue citations ... but if people do not cooperate, there may be arrests."

The sweep resulted in three arrests -- one person for allegedly drinking alcohol in the park and two on outstanding warrants, police said. No camping violation citations were issued.

Police also found two unlicensed bicycles, two abandoned cars and 25 shopping carts.

City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said the sweep would just send the homeless people to other areas.

"Where are they going?" she asked. "That's a good thing to clean the park, but to push out the homeless ... The shelters can only hold so many people.

"Some of these people are single mothers with two children who have a job but can't afford rent and to feed and clothe their kids."

Cleaning homeless people out of Honolulu Airport and Aala Park probably increased the number camping at Ala Moana Beach Park, said the Rev. Bob Marchant, River of Life Mission director.

Marchant echoed Koba-yashi's concerns and said there aren't enough transient shelters for the homeless.

"Where do they think they're really going to go? Basically, they go from one place to another."

City Managing Director Ben Lee said it has "been very frustrating for city workers. What's happening now is, right after they clean park bathrooms, in half an hour, it gets soiled again.

"We've just received too many complaints that people are somewhat intimidated by these campers monopolizing public facilities. ... We're not going to turn our public beach parks into homeless villages."

Signs that Ala Moana park residents had heard about the impending sweep was evident at about 8 last night as would-be campers packed their things, got on their bicycles and pedaled off.

"Don't want to be on TV," said a bearded man named Kenna as he rode off with his belongings. "Got better things to do with my life."

Vicki Goins sat quietly and stroked her cat and said she was just going to wait until police arrive, mainly because she had nowhere else to go.

"I'm not planning to interfere with their work or anything," Goins said. "I'm probably going to just walk across to the beach when they come. ... Since I won't be in the park itself, hopefully they'll leave me alone."

Lee said police and parks workers will continue the sweeps for the next six weeks on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

"I agree that moving them is not a solution at all," he said. "We're still working on long-term solutions. But we must send a message that they can't monopolize park facilities."

At Ala Moana a man named Butch was packing his belongings and saying goodbye to friends last night. "This is the last place, brah," he said. "They're chasing us from the beaches, and we're going to end up sleeping in people's back yards.

"I'm being sarcastic. But then again, what choice do we have?"

Star-Bulletin reporter Helen Altonn contributed to this report

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