LIHUE — In what is the start of an islandwide homeless encampment sweep, government agencies began removing unauthorized property and persons on a parcel of state land along Rice Street Wednesday morning.
The sweep near the Haleko Shop Complex was the second stage of removing the encampment which has been there for months, according to the Department of Transportation. The first stage was on April 17, when notices were posted to vacate under the possibility of receiving citations.
Authorities began moving in about 8:30 a.m., according to Homeless Director Jun Yung, who flew in from Oahu to oversee operations.
Renae Wa’alani, house manager and intake coordinator with Women In Need, who runs a home for women and children and does outpatient treatment and domestic violence classes, was on hand to offer assistance while local contractors, HTM, took apart the encampment.
“We gave the women our cards so they can come to our office if they need help,” Wa’alanai said. “So that’s what we do. There’s a procedure you have to go through to get into the house. Obviously, they can start from there if they want the help.”
For some business owners at the Haleko complex, the removal of the encampment came as a surprise, but with some relief.
Kauai Community Health Center employees watched through the windows of the Lihue community health center as the DOT and Kauai police took apart the complex, piece by piece, which has caused problems for the businesses in the area.
“It’s gonna be safer,” one employee said, who preferred not to be named. “It’s only because our employees work after dark and these people come when we’re closed, which makes it a little scary.”
Jung said the operation met little resistance.
“Everybody’s been peaceful, it’s just a matter of giving plenty of time to figure out what they want to do with their personal items,” Yung said. “That this is going to happen and have plenty of service providers to give them services.”
Yung said from his last report from the Kauai Economic Opportunity Wednesday morning, there were 11 beds available at the KEO shelter, which has a total of 19 beds. He said they encountered around “four or five people” who were still in the encampment.
DOT and Yang plan to remove encampments under the Wailua Bridge, the Pua Loke Arboretum, and eventually along the shores of Ahukini Landing. There is one known occupant under the Wailua Bridge, who is a veteran, according to Yang.
“It would be great to see him move into housing, and they have housing options,” he said.
Ryan Collins, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.