(BIVN) – The County of Hawaiʻi on Wednesday went ahead with a planned action to clear the homeless encampment at the Kona Community Aquatic Center, despite an objection from the ACLU of Hawaiʻi.
The ACLU and a coalition of Hawaiʻi Island homeless service providers say there is insufficient shelter space available on the Big Island to house those who have been impacted by these “sweeps”; a term that County officials reject in favor of their preference, “park rules enforcement effort”.
From a County news release:
Earlier today, the Hawaiʻi County Department of Parks and Recreation, in coordination with the Hawaiʻi Police Department, the Office of Housing and Community Development, and various nongovernment service providers, conducted a park rules enforcement effort at the Kona Community Aquatic Center. This operation, led by the directive of Hawaiʻi County Mayor Mitch Roth, aimed to address safety concerns and guarantee compliance with Parks’ rules within the facility’s grounds, ensuring the safety and functionality of the park for all residents and visitors.
17 individuals were impacted by the enforcement effort, with 13 receiving vital services, including housing, airfare, and relocation services. The other four refused assistance.
“Today’s park rules enforcement effort at the Kona Community Aquatic Center reflects our unwavering commitment to safety, compassion, and the well-being of our community,” said Mayor Mitch Roth. “We are not embarking on malicious sweeps; we are upholding the law while providing vital services and resources to enhance the quality of life for those affected by it. By working together with dignity and aloha, we are building a future where our public spaces are safe, clean, and inclusive for everyone.”
To ensure the proper handling of all personal property, the County arranged for a secure storage facility. The 21 bags of personal belongings from three individuals were carefully stored and inventoried, allowing individuals to easily retrieve their belongings within a 30-day period.
Two truckloads of miscellaneous trash were also recovered and disposed of.
Similarly to the Hale Hālāwai Parks’ Enforcement Operation, outreach specialists from service provider organizations had been actively engaging with individuals in the area prior to the enforcement effort to provide support and connect them with appropriate resources.
With the successful completion of the outreach and enforcement effort, all safety and rule violations within the Kona Community Aquatic Center have been addressed. Mayor Roth’s focus is now on restoring the intended purpose of the park, creating a safe and enjoyable environment for all residents and visitors.