(BIVN) – A large enforcement operation was carried out on Wednesday morning to address the homeless encampments at Kona’s Hale Hālāwai beack park.
From the County of Hawaiʻi:
Under the leadership of Mayor Mitch Roth, the Hawaiʻi County Department of Parks and Recreation, in collaboration with various County agencies, including the Office of Housing and Community Development and the Hawaiʻi State Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, initiated a park rules enforcement operation at Hale Hālāwai earlier this morning, May 24. The operation aimed to address the homeless encampments within and around the park facility, falling under the jurisdiction of the County and presenting unsafe and unhealthy conditions.
The large-scale operation involved substantial resources, including the dedicated participation of County Kona maintenance staff, a significant contingent of Hawaiʻi Police Department Community Policing Officers (CPOs), and vehicles dedicated to transporting refuse to the Kona transfer station.
“We understand that enforcement cannot always be the answer, but we also have to ensure that our parks are safe for our local families, especially our keiki, to enjoy,” said Mayor Mitch Roth. “Our goal is to continue working with our on-island service providers to get folks the help they need. We have made and will continue to make significant investments in addressing homelessness islandwide and are steadfast in our commitment to building a sustainable Hawaiʻi Island where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and succeed.”
Efforts by homeless outreach specialists, under the direction of OHCD, have been ongoing to conduct outreach to individuals in the area. Preliminary assessments indicate that approximately half of the individuals will be open to accepting the offered services.
To ensure the proper handling of personal property that individuals cannot take with them, Mayor Roth directed the placement of a 40-foot Matson container at the County Parks’ Kona base yard. The non-perishable, non-hazardous, and non-junk property will be meticulously inventoried and stored for a period of 30 days before any necessary disposal.
Upon completion of the operation, all encampments, unauthorized campers, and individuals establishing residence within the County park facility will no longer be present. Mayor Roth’s focus is on restoring the park’s intended purpose and creating a safe and welcoming environment for all residents and visitors.
“When I look along our coastline along Aliʻi Drive, our beaches, our wahi pana, all I see is ʻopala (trash) these days, and it’s just getting worse,” said Jerome Kanuha, a lifelong resident of Kailua-Kona. “That’s not safe. It’s not healthy – not for our local families, our keiki. As a community, we applaud Mayor Roth for hearing our plea and taking action to tackle this issue with aloha and humanity while putting our keiki first.”
The County would like to inform the public that the next operation in Kona will address the growing encampment in front of the Kona gym and pool.
Mayor Mitch Roth emphasizes the importance of upholding park rules and prioritizing the well-being of our community. He added, “this park rules enforcement operation is a testament to his ongoing commitment to address the issue of homelessness while maintaining the quality of our public spaces.”
Susan Kunz, from the Office of Housing and Community Development (OHCD), expressed gratitude for the partnership and coordinated effort in this operation. OHCD acknowledges the need for time to allow service providers to engage with those affected and ensure housing and support for as many individuals as possible.
The Roth administration has executed contracts with 13 nonprofits for 16 projects, receiving $7.5 million in grants through the Homelessness and Housing Fund. Furthermore, an additional $18 million has been allocated for the Affordable Housing Production Program, which is currently accepting proposals until June 30.
The first phase of the Kūkuiola Emergency Shelter and Assessment Center in Kailua-Kona is underway, with mass grading in progress. This phase includes 16 emergency shelter units, and vertical construction is scheduled to commence in early 2024.
Mayor Roth and the County are confident that these ongoing programs, substantial investments in addressing homelessness and affordable housing through the establishment of the Homelessness and Housing Fund and the Affordable Housing Production Program, and the development of dedicated projects like the Kūkuiola Emergency Shelter and Assessment Center will contribute to reducing the number of Hawaiʻi Island residents experiencing homelessness and create a more sustainable future for the County of Hawaiʻi moving forward.