A homeless tent city has sprung up near Hawaii’s Kakaako Park, virtually overnight. Authorities have contacted its residents and told them they have until the end of the month to leave.
48-year-old Douglas King is just one of the many men living there. He runs the electronic appliances in his makeshift home with old car batteries.
King moved to Hawaii from Atlanta six weeks ago and has used the last of his Social Security disability checks.
“I don’t have any money. I bought this before my checks cut off,” he says. King says he can work, but has difficulty holding jobs because he suffers from bi-polar disorder.
He does have a talent that could draw more attention to the plight of the homeless, however. King can name all of the world’s nations in alphabetical order.
Those who work with the needy say crackdowns in other areas have forced more homeless to Kakaako, and the mainland’s wintry mix has added to the impact. “We tend to see an influx of individuals or homeless people when it’s cold. It’s cold on the east coast. People want to come to Hawaii,” says Marko Johnson, who works with homeless veterans.
More people means more trash, complaints of feces in public areas, and reports of theft and fights. The local homeless blame the change in the neighborhood on outsiders coming in.
The problem may not last much longer. The Hawaii Community Development Authority – which oversees growth in Kakaako – says the areas where the homeless now live will be severely restricted, especially when a seven acre paved parking lot opens nearby.
“We look to the end of February to have homeless individuals who are camping on private property or state property — which is set back from the street – we’re looking to have them moved or to move off,” says HCDA executive director, Anthony Ching.
HCDA officials say they’re encouraging the homeless to use nearby shelters.
They cannot stay on private property or on state land that isn’t park land. If they don’t move from those areas by the end of February, HCDA says, as a last resort, the homeless could be arrested for trespassing.