KAILUA VILLAGE — Hawaii County Highways Divisions crews, Hawaii Police officers and HOPE Services Hawaii employees worked to clear more homeless camps Thursday in the village and downtown Kailua-Kona areas.
The effort began around 3:30 a.m. Thursday when the three groups went to Old Kona Airport Park. There, several people were cited for camping in the county park after hours, police said.
Crews cleaned up campsites at the oceanfront park before heading to Alahou Street, Honl’s Beach Park, and a drainage channel on Hualalai Road to roust homeless at those sites. Makeshift housing just feet off Alahou Street was nearly cleared as of Thursday afternoon.
HOPE Services Hawaii employees offered outreach options to individuals at each of the sites. Two people who were living in the drainage channel on Hualalai Road accepted help from the organization.
No sweeps will occur today as it is the Good Friday holiday and most county workers have the day off, said Barbara Kossow, executive assistant to Mayor Harry Kim. Beyond this week, no more sweeps are planned to her knowledge.
“I think as it pops up, the county is going to address it,” she said.
Kossow said the county sweeps were spurred after the Mayor’s Office received a call on Monday regarding homeless camps in Kailua-Kona. That followed the state, which on Monday had contractors clean out a large homeless camp at the intersection of Palani Road and Queen Kaahumanu Highway.
The Mayor’s Office, she said, relies on the community to help point out concerns that may not yet have been brought to the county’s attention.
“It’s not just government,” Kossow said. “We need the community to let us know.”
Concerns can be submitted online via the county’s website at www.hawaiicounty.gov/office-of-the-mayor. There, click on the “Comment and Concerns” button and fill out the form. Photos can also be attached.
“It’s tracked, it’s numbered, so it doesn’t fall through the cracks,” said Kossow, who also receives a copy.
Both efforts comes on the heels of the release of the Homeless Point In Time Count, an annual nationwide survey of each county in the country that seeks to take a snapshot of how many homeless people spent a night in a shelter or outside of one, last week.
According to the count, conducted back in January, homelessness appeared to be down this year on the Big Island as well as across the state compared to last year.
But while homelessness statewide dropped only slightly, homelessness on the Big Island dropped from 869 to 690 this year, a 21 percent decrease, according to the count.