A city bus stop has been temporarily moved so bus drivers and riders can get away from the smell of a homeless woman who's living at a busy Honolulu bus shelter. That?s the first time the city has relocated a bus stop because of a homeless person, according to City Transportation Director Wayne Yoshioka.
The concrete bus shelter on Kapiolani Boulevard, right across from the Nordstrom store at Ala Moana, has been home to an elderly homeless woman for at least the last year.
?We were getting quite a few complaints from bus riders about her smell,? Yoshioka said. ?We are trying to be as sensitive as possible,? he added, noting that it?s not illegal for the homeless to stay at bus shelters.
Bus drivers told KITV 4 News that the woman is sometimes so smelly that her odor wafts in buses when they open their doors outside the bus shelter and the smell lingers for a while inside the bus.
So the city temporarily moved the bus stop 60 feet down the street to the area in front of the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant on the corner of Kapiolani Boulevard and Keeaumoku Street.
?It?s difficult to co-exist with someone like that,? Yoshioka said.
When a reporter tried to interview the homeless woman, she declined, saying, ?No. Excuse me, I don't want no question ... No comments."
Bus riders said the woman she usually keeps to herself and she sometimes talks to herself with no one else nearby.
"She's not all there. Gotta be compassionate, you gotta be nice. Just, if you see her, eh, leave her alone," said Eleazara Jessmon, who was waiting to take a bus home to Aiea.
Jessmon said she has seen at least one bus driver tell the woman to leave the bus stop.
"He said, ?Don't sit there. That's a bus stop, that's not a place to live.? But if you're homeless, where you gonna go?? Jessmon said.
The bus stop signs have been covered at the bus shelter and city bus officials posted hand-written, makeshift signs saying the bus stop is temporarily closed.
"While the smell sometimes is a bit much, I don't understand why someone doesn't help her," said Elena Renehan, who's a student at nearby Heald College. She doesn't think moving the bus stop is a good idea.
"Who's to say that the next stop that they have there's not going to be another person? What are they going to do? Move the bus stop a million times? Silly," Renehan said.
Yoshioka said bus stop squatters are doing nothing illegal, since they have access to public sidewalks and streets like everyone else. The city is working to serve its bus customers while having compassion for the homeless, he said. The campers periodically receive counseling and are given options for alternative housing.
The city has begun installing a new style of benches at bus stops with designs that are supposed to discourage people from sleeping on them.
New green benches have three raised bars that divide them in sections, making it uncomfortable to recline on them.
In 2008, the city installed concrete stools at some bus stops in another attempt to make it difficult for the homeless to set up camp.
The city also put in benches along Fort Street Mall which have two raised arm rests in them, also aimed at making it nearly impossible to lie down and sleep on them.