Hawaii officials sweep homeless camps, clear tons of trash

HONOLULU — Hawaii law enforcement officers have cleared 42 illegal campsites at a Honolulu recreation area before the state hauled away tons of trash, officials said.

Officers from the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement conducted the sweep last week at the Sand Island State Recreation Area, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Saturday.

State contractors removed about 190 tons (172 metric tons) of trash in three days, land and natural resources department spokesman Dan Dennison said.

The items hauled away during the cleanup included bicycles and bike parts, mopeds, power tools, welding equipment, generators and cooking utensils, Dennison said.

The state stores personal items removed during cleanups for 30 days and informs affected people about how to retrieve the items.

Camping at Sand Island is allowed with permits, but officials said nearly 100 people were illegally camping in tents and makeshift tarp structures.

“This is a public beach and we’ve been getting complaints that dogs are chasing people and squatters are yelling at people,” said Pua Aiu, homeless coordinator with the land agency.

A notice to vacate was posted a week before the cleanup. Outreach workers offered shelter services and other services to members of the homeless population, but the majority declined assistance, Aiu said.

“It’s frustrating because most people on DLNR lands refuse any help or services,” Aiu said. “We realize in Hawaii it’s tough for many people to afford housing. Some people make a conscious decision that they just want to camp.”

State homeless coordinator Scott Morishige said social service providers have offered access to shelters and to the Honolulu Police Department’s Provisional Outdoor Screening and Triage program at Keehi Lagoon.

Outreach teams from the Kalihi-Palama Health Center and the Institute for Human Services also contacted people at Sand Island.

Most people left Sand Island before the cleanup began but returned soon after, underlining the difficulty of keeping the recreation area clear of illegal campers without daily enforcement, Aiu said.

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