Sit-lie ban could expand to new Oahu communities in early 2017

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

When Todd Nitta and his wife took over NT Automotive in Kalihi a few months back, the couple had no idea how much the homeless problem in the area could affect business.

"They always mention it: We had to go the other way. We can't go this way because it's dangerous," said Todd Nitta, adding the shop has been in the family for 50 years.

Noreen Nitta added, "You can't walk on the sidewalks. You can't get by even to get around. So you're actually walking into traffic."

The Nittas and other area business owners say the problem started more than a year ago, when the city built a fence along the Kapalama Canal to move homeless in the area out.

When the fence went up, they say, many of the people who were living there moved to Kaumualii Street and set up camp in front of their businesses.

The situation has prompted City Councilman Joey Manahan to propose an expansion of the controversial sit-lie ban, which bans people from sitting or lying on public sidewalks. The ban is currently in place in Waikiki.

Manahan said something needs to be done in the neighborhood near the Kapalama Canal and in parts of Iwilei.

"We were looking at specific streets or just a zoned area," he said. "We're getting the bill drafted."

Fed up shop owners say the city has to do something soon or they'll be forced out of business.

They say those living in the area appear to be chronically homeless and abusing drugs. They throw trash in the street, and one shop owner shot a photo of drugs being cooked on a hot plate in the back of a van.

As for the Nittas, they say enforcement can't happen soon enough.

"We see vehicles parked out there. We see young women jumping in and out with men, all hours of the day and night. We see the needles. We found 36 syringes right at the corner of our warehouse," said Noreen Nitta.

"If you're on drugs. If you're doing illegal activity. That shouldn't be on my store front."

If approved by the City Council, the new sit-lie ban could go into effect as early as February.

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