KAILUA-KONA — In the wake of a substantial state effort to clear a sprawling homeless encampment near a busy Kona intersection, Hawaii County on its own is addressing two smaller campsites in Kailua Village.
Beginning at 9 a.m. today, county workers will clear out a culvert on Hualalai Road that runs adjacent to the Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union and under Kuakini Highway and Alii Drive down to the ocean. Deputy Managing Director Barbara Kossow said it’s not clear how many homeless reside there but come Friday the number will be zero.
“We’re trying to really jump on (these cleanups) right away,” she said. “It doesn’t always move as quickly as we’d like it to.”
HOPE Services Hawaii personnel will also be on site to offer outreach options to those individuals vacating the channel. None of the seven homeless on site Monday morning at the camp off the intersection of Palani Road and Queen Kaahumanu Highway accepted emergency housing but five did express interest in an initial intake process designed to help them navigate the path to permanent housing.
The next area the county plans to clear is a small section of pavement on the mauka side of Alahou Street, which connects to Henry Street just above the Aloha Island Mart. Three individuals occupying two tents with a small pile of possessions resting against a rock wall in between them line the shoulder of the road.
Kossow said the entirety of the camp, situated only feet from the tires of vehicles passing by, sits in the county right-of-way.
There is no timeline yet for what should be a brief cleanup endeavor, as Hawaii Police Department officers are inquiring with the Hawaii County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney as to the appropriate method of notification and removal.
Officers have, however, already made contact with the homeless living on Alahou Street. One such individual is Huxley Reeves who said he and his girlfriend would have left the area already except that he has nowhere to relocate.
Homeless for several years but only on Kona streets night in and night out for the last year or so, Reeves is confined to a wheelchair, limiting his options considerably.
“We haven’t left because there’s absolutely no place for me to go unless I’m going to go stay on the corner of Henry Street and Kuakini (Highway), which is completely out of the question, or set up a camp on a sidewalk somewhere,” Reeves said.
The best solution for people like himself, he believes, is for the county to allow them some of the “dead space” off the road in the flat area of Kuakini Highway.
“I understand the problem. The homeless make messes,” Reeves said. “The police tell me all the time, ‘If you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind.’ (Some) can do that, I can’t.”
County officials plan to meet Tuesday to discuss several issues involving homelessness, including strategies for future enforcement efforts.