Students discuss homeless concerns along canal

Ka La photo by Nakemiah Williams A mother and her two children living along the Kapalama Canal earlier this month.
Ka La photo by Nakemiah Williams
A mother and her two children living along the Kapalama Canal earlier this month.

By Chris Williams
Ka La staff writer

Ian, a 26-year-old former Honolulu Community College student who had his car broken into twice in the two terms he attended school here, isn’t sure who is responsible.

“The homeless that camp out at the canal are probably the ones who are responsible for breaking into my car, but who knows? It could’ve been anyone,” said Ian, a former Navy electrician stationed at Pearl Harbor, who asked that his last name not be used.

It’s no secret that the area around the school has seen a great rise in homeless people living nearby in the last year, but it’s not clear that they pose a real safety threat to students or others on campus.

A short drive past Aala Park or down Dillingham Boulevard and you can see any one of the many homeless camps set up on the side streets. One of the biggest camps runs parallel to the canal on Kokou Street just west of the HonCC campus. Ian would park his vehicle on the other side of the canal, closest to school when he attended class. While many people feel uncomfortable, the actual statistics of crime around the campus haven’t increased that much.

“I ended up parking next to the canal most days,” Ian said. “Parking at Honolulu Community College is horrendous and more often than not I wasn’t left with another option,” he said.

Ian has transferred from HonCC to University of Hawaii at Manoa where he has yet to encounter any of sort of problem like the few he experienced at his last school. “The biggest and most obvious reason is where the two schools are located. I’ve lived here for almost eight years, and Kalihi has always been a tough area. Lots of homeless. Lots of crime. Not somewhere you’d want to go at night.”

Billie Takaki Leuder, executive assistant to the HonCC chancellor and director of communications & external affairs, said school officials are highly aware of the homeless problem in the neighborhood and have been working with city leaders to find a solution. So far, despite regular sweeps in the area, there’s been little progress in clearing out the canal encampment.

Fixing any issue regarding homelessness is a tricky and lengthy process, Lueder In the interim, the school has concentrated on providing new safety like new and brighter lights throughout campus, 24-hour security cameras, and sending the campus security guards through a longer and more detailed training program so they can be better equipped to help keep the campus safe and secured.

School officials are also working hard to do a better job of reporting all crimes on and near campus, as required by a federal law known as the Cleary Act, Lueder said

The city is also talking about putting up a fence around the canal so the homeless could no longer set up camp, a quick fix that would also eliminate some off-campus parking for students.

One homeless man, however, seemed angry about the idea.

Daryl Anokii, 32, is a Hawaii native who has been homeless since he was 16. When I asked his thoughts about the fence going up, he said simply “This is my island, if I want to stay here, I can. If I want to walk through your school, I will.”

Regardless of your feelings on the homeless in the area these issues effect everyone in the community, not just the students and staff at HonCC. Until a viable and reasonable solution is agreed upon and carried out between the Kalihi community and local government, åthis is something we should get used to.


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