(BIVN) – A sweep was conducted in the area of the Mo‘oheau Bus Terminal in Downtown Hilo on Friday, days after a man died at the location following a reported fight at a homeless encampment.
News of the sweep was announced by HOPE Services Hawaiʻi, a non-profit organization of the Roman Catholic Church of Hawaiʻi that provides outreach and help to those in need. HOPE Services reported that the sweep was initiated by the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources, and that the HOPE Outreach team “was made aware of the impending sweep two days ago, and immediately diverted their attention and resources to assisting our houseless community members residing at and around the bus terminal.”
News of the sweep was not disseminated by the Hawaiʻi DLNR or the County of Hawaiʻi. In the past, similar events under Mayor Mitch Roth’s administration have been referred to as “law enforcement actions”. HOPE Services called the event a homeless sweep, adding on Facebook: “Don’t let yourself be fooled. If it looks like a sweep and functions as a sweep, it’s a sweep.”
One HOPE Services photo shows a Notice To Vacate flyer dated January 17th, informing those occupying the area “without the written approval of the Board of Land and Natural Resources, State of Hawaiʻi, that you must vacate subject lands immediately and remove all structures, vehicles and personal belongings placed thereon.” The deadline to comply was set at noon on Thursday, January 18th.
HOPE Services says they encountered 19 people in the area of the bus terminal before the deadline, at which time 5 of the inhabitants informed them that they were leaving the site but staying in the Hilo Bayfront area. On the day of the sweep, the Outreach team encountered 13 people. They assisted 10 people into their shelters that day.
“Most people took as many of their belongings as they could carry, and we assisted with transporting the belongings of some of the people entering our shelter,” HOPE Services wrote. “Hawaiʻi Police Department Community Policing officers offered to store items for 30 days, but no one accepted. The items remaining at the site of the sweep were discarded.”
HOPE Services noted on Facebook that it does not support homeless sweeps as an approach to dealing with such encampments. “This sweep displaced our neighbors,” the organization wrote. “This sweep endangered people by separating them from their community and their belongings.”
In response to the recent “tragic incidents affecting our houseless community in Hilo recently” – such as the death at the bus terminal or the birth of a baby on the sidewalk at the Mamo Street and Keawe Street intersection – HOPE services commented: “We do not want to comment on the specifics of any incidents, because they are personal and complex journeys.”