ACLU: The city’s a Grinch for rousting homeless on Christmas Eve

ACLU: The city’s a Grinch for rousting homeless on Christmas Eve

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The ACLU has this message for the city: You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

The legal advocacy nonprofit says it’s disappointed that the city decided not to cancel a homeless sweep on Waikiki in the wee hours of the morning on Christmas Eve.

ACLU had appealed to the city, asking it to cancel its plan to move homeless people in HPD’s Waikiki district out from 3 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. Monday.

The city, though, didn’t budge.

Acting Mayor Roy Amemiya issued this statement on the decision:

“True compassion is working to get everyone off the street. This is not an overnight process, but rather than spending Christmas on the street, we hope these people will be able to spend it in a shelter, with access to the care and services that they need."

The city added that it identified at least 50 spaces at Oahu shelters.

Ross Sasamura, director and chief engineer of the city’s Department of Facility Maintenance, said that the city has had seven “enforcement actions” in Waikiki alone this month.

“The ordinances weren’t designed to move homeless people. They’re designed to remove obstructions from public property, remove obstructions from the sidewalk and allow to move freely,” he said.

Sasamura added, “We understand the significance of the Christmas season and the holidays in general ... and it’s important to understand that the holidays and Christmas are there for everyone’s enjoyment and not just for a few people who choose to monopolize or impact other people.”

But the ACLU says the timing of the homeless sweep couldn’t be worse, and added that the city could have instead urged homeless people in Waikiki to accept services without threatening to arrest them if they didn’t move on.

“As legal advocates the ACLU believes — especially in light of recent court decisions — that the sweeps are constitutionally questionable," said ACLU Hawaii Executive Director Joshua Wisch.

“As people, we’re saddened the city continues to use the holidays to harass the least fortunate among us.”

He added that poverty isn’t a crime, but the city is acting like it is.

“I don’t know why they couldn’t give these families a break over the holidays,” he said.

ACLU added that the city also conducted sweeps the day before Thanksgiving and before Hurricane Lane. It’s unclear if any other sweeps are planned through the end of the year.

The city announces sweeps a day in advance on its website.

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