Homeless can sleep in their cars overnight in Maui County pilot program

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino has signed a bill that will allow homeless people to sleep in their cars in a county parking lot overnight.
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 9:01 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui County is starting a program that will allow the homeless to sleep in their cars overnight in a county parking lot.

Officials are confident it will work, but add that steps have to be taken to ensure that it doesn’t turn into an encampment.

Starting as soon as next month, people will be allowed to sleep in their vehicles in the parking lot of the J. Walter Cameron Center in Wailuku.

The county even plans to set up porta-potties.

“This site is located centrally and close to social service providers that can help those people who welcome their assistance,” Maui Mayor Mike Victorino said as he signed the bill into law Thursday.

“It’s not meant as something where people are going to be cooking, or where people are going to do partying or having major gatherings. it’s basically to sleep,” said Maui County Council member Kelly King, who introduced the measure.

King said she introduced the bill because, while state law prohibits overnight sleeping in vehicles on public property, the counties are allowed to establish their own rules for their properties.

“If you’re unsheltered and living in your car, you get constantly -- you know, the flashlight in your window and ‘move on down the road,’ so it’s really hard to get a good night’s sleep,” she said.

King said the pilot program is meant to help working people who simply can’t afford housing.

Maui’s “Point In Time” homeless count actually decreased slightly, from 789 in 2020 to 741 this year.

Some worry that allowing overnight stays in county lots will lead to encampments.

“You gotta make sure that people come and leave at designated times, right? Because there are situations in other counties, and the homeless did not want to leave,” said county council member Yuki Lei Sugimura.

The county is still working on its protocols, but said guests will have to register.

The head of Oahu’s largest homeless services provider said she’s seen it done elsewhere, and that it’s a good idea.

“If it’s like a triage point and people register and we can help people, it could be a quicker way to help people,” said Connie Mitchell, executive director of the Institute for Human Services.

“I thought about it when we first started work in Waikiki and that there were quite a few people that are working in Waikiki, but they don’t have a place to live,” said Mitchell. “And so we would see some people that were living in their cars.”

Victorino said the pilot project could begin as soon as contract details are finalized. The project could receive up to $200,000 in the county budget for such things are portable toilets and security.