Politics

Honolulu Mayor Admits City's Crackdown On Homeless People Failed

| by Michael Allen

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell recently admitted that his attempts to crack down on homeless people in Kaka'ako, a retail district, have not worked.

In 2014, Caldwell signed a series of bills, including one that made it illegal to sit or lie on public sidewalks in Wakiki, noted Hawaii News One.

Under the new laws, violators, presumably the homeless, would have to a pay a $1,000 fine (that they likely would not have) and go to jail for up to 30 days, at taxpayer expense.

Caldwell claimed at the time that social services had told him that if laws made it too difficult for homeless people to live on the streets and parks, they would flock to homeless shelters.

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Honolulu has spent about $1,875,000 to enforce new "sidewalk nuisance stored property ordinances," Hawaii News Now noted.

Caldwell recently stated:

It is very troubling. We have done enforcements in the past, but what happens is they just move onto other state property, stand there, let us clean everything up on the sidewalk, then we leave and they move right back.

After spending almost two million dollars on failed enforcement, Caldwell's office has asked for another $616,000 to hire seven full-time employees to find affordable housing projects for homeless people, which comes out to an annual salary of $88,000 for each employee.

According to the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, Hawaii already has numerous homeless housing advocates who are likely already aware of the specific needs regarding the homeless population in the 50th state.

Caldwell added:

What we're trying to do, and here's a plea again, is we're asking leadership at the Council to restore our funding if possible for our staffing for people to help us find units to put our homeless folks into, because what we're doing now is just moving them around. We do not want to go back to Kaka'ako until we have these units or some type of shelter space for them to move into otherwise we're not solving the problem.

There's going to be a major health problem if we don't partner up, work together and not work against each other, and we're asking for that coming together to try to do this.

However, City Council member Ann Kobayashi believes that Caldwell already has a large enough staff, and stated:

When the mayor introduced that sit-lie concept to try to solve the problem in Waikiki, I kept saying that then they're going to move into other areas and sure enough the homeless people moved across the Ala Wai and now they're in McCully and Mo'ili'ili. We just have to build more housing. That's what we need affordable housing, affordable rentals.

The Guardian noted in 2014 that Caldwell's main concern was the local tourism industry, which was complaining about the homeless people, not the homeless themselves.

Sources: U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, Hawaii News One 1, Hawaii News Now 2, The Guardian
Image Credit: Andrew Wertheimer