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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 20, 2003

City pleased with Ala Moana park cleanup

By Zenaida Serrano Espanol
Advertiser Staff Writer

After the first in a series of expanded cleanups of Ala Moana Beach Park, city officials are pleased with both the improved condition of and the cooperation of the park's homeless population in the cleanup effort.

"It went well," Honolulu Police Capt. Ed Nishi said about the initial cleaning on Feb. 12. "It was an excellent opportunity for the parks people to get the park clean."

A mix-up in schedules between parks department workers and police officers for the second cleanup yesterday morning meant that workers had no police backup, but city spokeswoman Carol Costa said it went smoothly.

A third cleaning is scheduled for early tomorrow morning.

The cleanups are intended to deal with problems officials say are associated with the homeless population there: filthy restrooms and shopping carts and possessions left in the park.

But officials said neither city workers nor police officers ran into any problems or resistance from the homeless. An estimated 100 homeless people were told in advance to clear the park for the cleanings.

This gave crews a chance to thoroughly power-wash bathrooms and clear out trash, which included tables, chairs, broken bicycles and "bags of all kinds of things that you could possibly think of," Nishi said.

"I did see one truckload of shopping carts that were taken out," Costa said.

Officials plan to continue to close the park for cleanings every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m., although "cleanings will eventually be a two-hour process," Costa said.

She added that this early-morning schedule meant restructuring the schedules of several maintenance workers to accommodate the cleanup times.

Although city and police officials call the cleanings a success, Catherine Graham of the Institute for Human Services voiced concern for the homeless people who have to leave the park for each cleaning.

"It's definitely a problem because these people don't have any place to go," Graham said.

IHS was one of several social service groups that prepared for additional clients on the first day of the cleanup project.

"We did not have an increase that we could see on that particular night," she said.

But on the nights leading up to the cleaning, Graham said there was a slight increase of about 10 to 15 more people admitted to the men's shelter — perhaps a result of police giving advance warnings, she said.

City officials should have had options available to the homeless before the cleanup project, Graham said, as agencies like IHS are filled to capacity.

"My thoughts are that it's never really well planned," she said. "It would be nice to have alternatives for these people."

Many of the park's homeless people "just left and then came back," Nishi said.

Others remained nearby, "waiting along a rock wall facing Ala Moana boulevard" for the cleanup to finish, Costa said.

Reach Zenaida Serrano Espanol at zespanol@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8174.