City enforcing stored property ordinance at 3 Oahu parks

By Ramsay Wharton

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Tuesday, the City confiscated its first batch of property under what many refer to as the "sidewalk law."

Notices issued Monday to homeless campers at three different sites were enforced Tuesday, with impounding starting at 9 a.m.

Homeless campers started packing up late Monday night at Old Stadium Park, just hours before City crews arrived.

It's the City's first enforcement of its new stored property ordinance -- formerly Bill 54 -- at homeless sites, aimed at keeping private property off public property including sidewalks and parks.

"The first thing that we do, we ask them if there's anything they want to discard and so we'll set that aside as a separate pile and dispose of that for them," Department of Maintenance Director Wesley Chun said. "Any material that they're not able to move off site, however, will be impounded."

On Monday, dozens of homeless campers at Old Stadium Park and at Moiliili and Pawaa In-Ha Parks were issued 24-hour notices telling them to either move or lose their belongings to the City.

"So far after going through Moiliili field and here, we've impounded property from three individuals," Chun said.

According to the City, not all items will be stored. Items that will not be kept include hazardous materials, illegal drugs and paraphernalia, newspapers, wet items, perishables and liquids.

Workers make an inventory list and photograph the impounded property, which is then stored in large green bins at the City's baseyard in Halawa.

Property owners have 30 days to claim their stuff or its gets thrown away.

Vance Apolo has been homeless for a year-and-a-half. He does not exactly know where he will go now. For now, he says he's on a five-week waiting list to get into the popular Next Step Shelter in Kakaako.

"I really didn't like it, but I had no choice," Apolo said. "I lost my job and I had another job, but it wasn't paying enough, too, for rent."

One of the concerns is just how affective this new law will be. While the streets have been cleared, the homeless are moving their items into the adjacent park. Who is to say that come later in the night, the items don't come back out and onto the sidewalk where they await, yet another notice?

According to a City spokesperson Louise Kim-McCoy, there will not be another notice. Property owners have already been warned that items identified in their notification are fair game for impoundment anywhere on public grounds.

In addition, she says although the notification warns property owners that they are responsible for the costs associated with having their items impounded, at this time, there is no charge to them.

"We don't want to have to take their stuff," Kim-McCoy said. "We're hoping that people will voluntarily remove their personal property from public places."

So in the end, critics of the new law will be watching closely because enforcement will be key to determine whether or not the ordinance is an effective measure.

Anyone with concerns about private property on public grounds can call the City's Information and Complaints Division at 768-4381.

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