Backlash against bills which target homeless

By Paul Drewes
Published On: Aug 26 2014 11:55:00 PM HST

Just days before the five bills are heard by the city council, a petition is being passed around to help protect Hawaii's poorest from becoming criminals.

HONOLULU -

Are they needed measures to clear city streets of the homeless, or will they criminalize those who have been kicked to the curb?

WATCH: Paul Drewes' report.

Just days before five bills are heard by the City Council, a petition is being passed around to help protect Hawaii's poorest from becoming criminals.

Tuesday evening as the sun set in Waikiki, many of Hawaii's homeless got ready for another night of sleeping on the sidewalks.

Including Chantelle Holt and Josh Caldart,  who are newly homeless and spending their first night in Waikiki.

"I just lost my job and I have a lot of bills. I got kicked out three days ago," said Caldart.

While the couple had no problems getting their bed ready along Kalakaua Avenue on this night, soon sitting, lying or sleeping on the sidewalks could be illegal if one or several bills are passed by the city council.

That doesn't sit right with some of the homeless and their advocates.

"The sidewalks are the last place homeless can exist, without penalty. It is illegal to sleep in parks, on beaches, even in cars -- so sidewalks are the last resort," said homeless advocate Kathryn Xian.

Some feel it is not fair to force homeless from the sidewalks without enough places for them to go. Instead, they want housing first before sidewalks are cleared.

"I don't think the upper class gives a s*** about what happens to the lower class, as long as the area they live in looks presentable," said Caldart.

The number of homeless in Hawaii is growing, and many admit something needs to be done but will the additional crimes force some residents into places they don't want to go?

"It is not fair for the city to scapegoat the most disenfranchised, the extreme poor and blame them for the downturn of the economy. They've been dehumanized, and they've been treated badly," said Xian.

"It is hard being homeless. Thinking about what comes next, food, money and the worry that your stuff doesn't get stolen. It's just a very scary situation to go through," said Holt.
Along with questioning the effectiveness of the five bills, concerns have also been raised about the costs to enforce them and the constitutionality of the measures.

"They're really ineffective. What they do is waste taxpayer dollars in the arrest and court processes and they prolong homelessness itself," added Xian.

Xian's petition on change.org has already received nearly 400 signatures. It aims to stop the five bills once and for all.

Some of the measures call for limiting where homeless can sit, lay or sleep either in Waikiki, certain business areas or island-wide.

They will all be heard Thursday morning at Honolulu Hale.

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