HONOLULU (AP) — ABC Stores employees said they've had to buy a $300 power washer to clean feces away from their Cooke Street corporate headquarters since dozens of homeless people moved back into their neighborhood this month.
Employees said they've seen an influx of transients ever since the Hawaii Community Development Authority granted Honolulu police and a special city cleanup crew right-of-way to enter the state's Kakaako Waterfront Park and its sister parks to enforce closure hours, the Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.
The employees say the homeless people camp out front each night when nearby Mother Waldron Park closes. ABC Stores warehouse manager Mark Flores said he spends up to 90 minutes each morning waking up people to ask them to clear the front of the building so employees can park their vehicles.
"It's like this every morning," said Marjorie Pua, an ABC Stores corporate office employee. "Every morning. It's bad."
Flores said he's used to seeing a few homeless people around Mother Waldron Park. But, as people dragged their tents and tarps back across Cooke Street and into the park Tuesday morning, he said, "This is the biggest it's ever been."
ABC Stores has been headquartered on Cooke Street for 45 years, and company President and CEO Paul Kosasa took a long-term view of the current homeless population across the street.
"Forty-five years ago this area was just light industrial back then — warehouses, auto repair shops," Kosasa said. "Now it's Whole Foods, Nobu's Restaurant, upper-scale condos. It's improved a lot. So that's a positive. But now you have this juxtaposition of poverty and wealth. It is an interesting society we live in now with a lot of Japanese tourists coming into Kakaako taking selfies of themselves in front of the art murals. You have these homeless encampments in front of art. It's surreal."
Garett Kamemoto, the community development authority's interim executive director, said the sweeps at Kakaako have cleared the waterfront parks of homeless people for the first time in years. But as years of city sweeps have shown, the homeless people who do not move into shelters or find permanent housing merely migrate into the adjoining neighborhood.
Asked about the homeless occupants of Mother Waldron Park, Ross Sasamura, the city's director of facility maintenance, said in a statement to the Star- Advertiser that "crews from the Department of Facility Maintenance regularly enforce the Stored Property and Sidewalk Nuisance Ordinances at Mother Waldron Park and the surrounding streets in addition to other city parks and streets around Oahu."
People interviewed by the Star-Advertiser who identified themselves as homeless confirmed that they have been recently ticketed by officials.
Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com