Homeless problem at Waikiki Park sparks sleeping ban

Donna Lynch
Donna Lynch
Adam Verhusen
Adam Verhusen

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

WAIKIKI (KHNL) - Complaints about crime and harrassment spark a fight against the homeless problem in Waikiki.

On Thursday, the Honolulu City Council's Public Safety and Services Committee heard a bill that would ban sleeping at Kapiolani Park, no matter what time of day.

Many say Oahu's tourist hot spot is plagued with a problem with no easy answer.

"They're doing ice, they're doing meth, they're taking advantage of tourists, they steal from us, they steal from each other, they stay drunk all day, they fight in the middle of the street, it's embarrassing," said Donna Lynch, who mans a beach stand in Waikiki.

"And there's so much theft. In one day, within an hour, we'll have four or five backpacks stolen," she said.

Lynch says the homeless problem has become so severe, she's even gotten a death threat.

"He threatened to cap me, threatened to cap me and wipe that blank blank smirk off my face," said Lynch.

Part of the problem - it's illegal to sleep or pitch a tent at night.

So the homeless camp out during the day at Kapiolani Park, then stay awake all night to avoid trouble with the law.

"I'm like homeless but like I'm from Alaska and sleeping here is like sleeping at Motel 6," said Adam Verhusen, who's homeless.

The Honolulu City Council is looking at banning sleeping at the park around the clock. The ban would only apply to adults.

"Hawaii is meant to sleep on the beach. It's just all these rich people who want money from us. They just want to suck us dry out of money. They don't want us here. They want this perfect little paradise where only rich people can go," said Verhusen.

Critics say the proposed ban is only a temporary solution.

"You just keep moving them to other areas. It's just going to occur somewhere," said tourists, Bev and John Sexton.

But with Hawaii relying heavily on tourism, many say the homeless problem is aggravating an already sour economy.

"It's sad. Yeah, it's not something you really see in Hawaii," said the Sexton's.

The bill, introduced by Honolulu Council Member Charles Djou, unanimously passed out of committee. But it still has to go before the full Council. A final vote on the ban is set for mid-April.