Homeless swept off sidewalks as enforcement begins
Last week, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said enforcement of the city's new sidewalk nuisance law would involve "compassionate disruption."
On Monday, the mayor lived up to his promise more than two months after Bill 7 was signed into law. The new city ordinance allows workers with the Department of Facility Maintenance to remove personal items from sidewalks without 24-hour notice. Under a previous law (Bill 54), workers were required to tag items before hauling them away for storage or disposal.
"We got reports around the island that because media had done such a good job getting the information out, many of those who were camping on our sidewalks actually moved their things voluntarily to other areas," the mayor told reporters. "We noticed a real decrease in some of the problem areas, including in some that we went to clean up."
DFM workers tackled three hot spots Monday where homeless encampments encroached on city sidewalks: On Kalakaua Avenue by the Ala Wai Canal promenade, Old Stadium Park in Mo'ili'ili and Mo'ili'ili Neighborhood Park. Caldwell said only one person in all three raids requested that personal items be stored. However under Bill 7, getting items back within 30 days requires a $200 fee.
The mayor said the initial raids were being used as a test-run, and enforcement would pick up again Friday. Caldwell said compassion on Monday came in the form of providing the homeless with prior notice of the upcoming raids, as well as information on shelter space and other services.
"We don't want to repossess any of their personal items. We'd love them to take it with them and move into a shelter," said Caldwell.
The (de)Occupy Honolulu movement, which has been at Thomas Square in Kakaako for the past 19 months, was left untouched Monday. That was also the case at Aala Park in downtown Honolulu, and Ilalo Street by Kakaako Waterfront Park, where a growing number of homeless campers have pitched tents and makeshift shelters on sidewalks.
One homeless man by the name of Darrel told KITV4 he would resist any attempts to move him off the sidewalk on Ilalo Street, since he was providing enough space for pedestrians to pass by.
"In this particular case, I am going to refuse to take down my stuff, or allow them to take down my stuff," said Darrel, who did not provide his surname. "I'm going to plainly let them know that there's no law against being homeless, (and) I don't have anywhere else to go."
Darrel says he had been staying at the Next Step Homeless Shelter in Kakaako, but was told to leave when he could no longer afford the $60 per month program fee, which is charged to all residents after two months. A spokeswoman for Waikiki Health, which operates the shelter, said program fee waivers are available and the nonprofit makes every effort not to displace residents.
Meanwhile Robin Kelley, who has been living on Ilalo Street for the past nine months, agrees that city sidewalks should be kept neat and clear of obstacles. However, she said she would continue to live by the roadside, citing the "Law of the Splintered Paddle" invoked under King Kamehameha the First in 1797. The law states: "Let every elderly person, woman and child lie by the roadside in safety." The law was incorporated into the Hawaii Constitution under Article IX, Section 10.
"So, I'm standing on that ground," said Kelley. "I'm standing behind that, because this is the state of Hawaii. It is the state of aloha."
Caldwell, a lawyer by training, said the Law of the Splintered Paddle was meant to provide safe passage for weary travelers, and not the establishment of homeless encampments throughout the city.
"My feeling is that it wasn't meant for people to camp permanently on a trail," he said.
Caldwell said the city would eventually enforce Bill 7 during evening hours, so that a pattern doesn't develop of homeless removing tents from sidewalks during the daytime, only to put them back at night.
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