One of Oahu’s largest homeless hangouts was in the spotlight Wednesday. The Kapalama canal runs through Kalihi and often looks like a tent and tarp city. The city enforces it’s stored property ordinance over and over at that location but that hasn’t solved the issue.
Javan Kaiama remembers how his business used to be.
“When we looked at the establishment, the Kalihi area was really nice, it was really nice near the canal, it was really cleaned up and it was empty. It was a grassy knoll and you had your benches and you know we thought it would be a great place to create an experience for the people of Kalihi,” said Kaiama, owner of the Pau Hana Lounge.
That was just a two and a half years ago. Since then, the times have not only changed, it could also be running out.
“Basically we’ll be out of business. I mean that’s what it comes down to. There’s been lot’s of money lost fixing things and being blast on social media that this is a sketchy area because of perception right, seeing the homeless people,” said Kaiama.
Kaiama says that many of the people who live out on these streets cause problems. Including trespassing, stealing and sometimes threatening.
“The one big factor is that they come up through the back gate and they harass our employees, they harass our customers,” said Kaiama.
We hear about the homeless issue all the time but just how real is this problem in this area? Just look towards Ka’iulani Elementary School where 90% of it’s student’s qualify for free lunch and at least 56 students don’t have a home to go to.
“And I suspect that we actually have more numbers than that,” said Jill Puletasi, principal at Ka’iulani Elementary School.
The state says it knows of roughly 14,000 people who are without a home in Hawaii and close to 50% of them have jobs.
“The problem is out of control,” said Joey Manahan, a Honolulu City Council member.
So much so that the city’s cleaned up this street 16 times in the past handful of months. It’s gotten rid of 34 tons of rubbish but the problems these businesses face just keep coming back.
A bunch of solutions were thrown out at Wednesday’s meeting. A city council member told us that they’re going to look into two of them. The first is putting up more signage so that police can enforce more rules. The second is a little more complicated.
The city’s unsure about what department is responsible for the land along the Kapalama canal. Right now its in the hands of the Department of Facility Maintenance. That means at the moment, the city can only enforce it’s “clean ups” after putting out a 24-hour notice. But if the city finds out that the area falls under the jurisdiction of it’s Parks Department, it could enforce those rules every night. That means that no one would be able to camp out next to the canal.