(Via Star Advertiser)
Since the city began putting up a chain-link fencealong Kohou Street along Kapalama Canal thisweek, scores of homeless people have made anexit from what had been a growing encampmentnext to the waterway.
On Friday some debris, from shopping carts to bikeparts, continued to litter the canal and its banks.
The fence stretches along Kohou Street fromDillingham Boulevard to North King Street andprotrudes so far out that it would be difficult foranyone to try to pitch a tent in the area. After theKohou Street side is completed, the contractor willfence the opposite side of the canal along Kokea Street, city Chief Engineer Ross Sasamura said.
Where the homeless have gone is unclear. Only a handful of people could be seen Friday alongKohou Street mauka of King Street, which is outside the area being fenced.
Shirley Hilton, owner of Kahala Pacific Floors across Kohou Street from the canal, was pleased. “It’spretty amazing,” she said, adding that there were as many as 60 to 70 people camping along thecanal a week ago.
At its peak, Hilton said, the camp contained as many as 100 people.
“It’s cleaner and it feels safer,” she said.
Hilton said she’s hoping that many of the homeless made their way into shelters rather than movinginto other neighborhoods.
City Councilman Joey Manahan, who put the money for the fencing in this year’s budget, is alsopleased with the outcome so far, but said the effectiveness of the measure won’t come until later.
Because of the construction work, “they (the homeless) pretty much had to clear the area,” Manahansaid. “Hopefully, over time it will keep people out. “
In recent months, in the aftermath of city efforts to roust the homeless from the area using thestored-property and sidewalk nuisance ordinances, many campers returned to the canal area.
Sasamura told a City Council committee this past week that a complaint about the deterioratingenvironmental conditions along the canal prompted the state Department of Health to issue a writtennotice about the situation to the city.
The July 27 letter, written by DOH Clean Water Branch Chief Alec Wong, noted that rubbish wasbeing dumped into the canal and along its banks. The letter included photos of the trash. It did notdemand that the city take action, and it didn’t mention any possible violations.
“From my perspective, that is the Department of Health putting us on notice that there is an issuethat we have to address,” Sasamura said. “It’s not something that rose to the level of any violation,but as a responsible operator of the drainage system within our county, we have to take propermeasures and precautions to make sure that the items identified are addressed.”
Janice Okubo, a Health Department spokeswoman, said city officials were already looking at ways totackle the Kapalama encampment when Wong’s inspectors went to investigate and document thesituation.
“We know that they are working on the homeless issue as well as implementing a littler reductionprogram that they have in place, so there’s no citation or requirement attached to the letter,” Okubosaid.
The initial letter to the Health Department was written by state Rep. Karl Rhoads (D, Chinatown-Iwilei-Kalihi), who represents the area. Rhoads said he had received a complaint from a constituentcomplaining about the trash there.
Rhoads said he’s hoping the fence will make his letter a moot point. But he also said that the rubbishwas still in the canal, and hopes the city can get to it soon.
Sasamura said, “We’re in the process of addressing that, but the most immediate priority right now isbeing given to the fence to prevent any further littering or illegal dumping.”