(BIVN) – The difficult issue of homelessness in Hawaiʻi was discussed at this week’s public meeting with Mayor Mitch Roth and his County administration in South Kona.
The talk came on the heels of a recent enforcement operation at Hale Hālāwai Beach Park in Kailua Village.
“Unfortunately, a lot of times, it feels like we’re chasing our tails,” said Parks & Recreation director Maurice Messina. “Because if we move them out of one park, they’re going to go right to the next park. If we move them out of one park, they may go right into your businesses – and the alcoves and the vestibules of the businesses.”
“We move them out of Hale Hālāwai, they go right in front of Old Airport Gymnasium, which is where they are right now. We move them out of Moʻoheau Bandstand in Hilo, they go right into all the businesses,” Messina said. “So how do we stop that from happening? And that is with outreach. That is with getting them services.”
Messina said the County has changed its approach, and now law enforcement is their “last priority”.
“Some of the people at Hale Hālāwai took plane tickets back home when they were offered,” Messina added.
“It’s not illegal to be homeless,” reminded Mayor Roth. “We have this little document called the Constitution that prevents us from doing lot of those things. But we couldn’t do the enforcement part, so much, without the services. And now the coordinated effort allows us to do those things.”