Council approves sidewalk bills targeting homeless

But there’s a catch.

City Council approves controversial bill to ban people from sleeping on sidewalks

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu City Council on Wednesday approved Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s bills to ban the homeless on city sidewalks.

But it added a twist that the city says could delay enforcement.

The full council voted 6-to-3 to approve the measures, which would outlaw obstructions on sidewalks and make it illegal to live on a sidewalk or any other public areas if shelter is available.

But one of the bills includes an amendment that would require the city to complete a comprehensive plan on how it deals with the homeless problem before the bill takes effect.

“It’s not about delaying implementation. It really is about asking for something we were promised so many years ago," said City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine.

“We’ve provided millions of dollars for this plan we have been waiting for since 2013 yet a lot of that money has not been spent district by district.”

The Caldwell administration said it plans to complete such a plan by next week.

But according to the bills' language, the council still has to approve plan before the city could begin enforcing the sidewalk bans.

“The administration has had and has been implementing a comprehensive plan," said Marc Alexander, executive director of the Honolulu Housing office.

Pam Witty-Oakland, director of the city Department of Community Services, added: “We don’t want to hold up the implementation of either bill."

Critics said the language of the bills could invite legal challenges, causing further delays to implementation.

The ACLU of Hawaii, which has challenged similar sit-lie bans, said the language of one of the bills is similar to a Boise, Idaho law, which was recently struck down by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

“Criminalizing being on a sidewalk while being homeless is cruel and unusual punishment and unconstitutional," said Mateo Caballero, the ACLU’s legal director.

Added homeless resident Mike Fernandez: “To brand me as a criminal because I don’t live in a house is ridiculous,” he said.

The measures next go the mayor’s office.

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