Lawmaker hammers home his homeless solution
WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - State Rep. Tom Brower has taken a sledgehammer and a novel approach to Hawaii's homeless problem.
"I got tired of telling people I'm trying to pass laws. I want to do something practical that will really clean up the streets," he said.
In his spare time he scours streets and parks in his district, looking for shopping carts homeless use to store and move their belongings. He returns good ones to stores and destroys others with his sledgehammer.
"I find abandoned junk, specifically shopping carts, and I remove them. I also create a situation where those carts can't be pushed around the city. I think it's a good thing," he said.
The executive director of Mental Health America of Hawaii thinks otherwise.
"His message to the public is that it's okay to commit acts of violence against homeless people, against vulnerable people. It's okay for vigilante justice," Marya Grambs said.
Others call Brower's method extreme and potentially dangerous.
"There are some people who are not that stable and maybe drug-affected that could really react to him," said Connie Mitchell of the Institute for Human Services.
But Waikiki Neighborhood Board chairman Robert Finley thinks Brower's actions may spur merchants who've lost shopping carts to do something about it.
"It might get these owners to say, 'Hey! This has got to stop, and I'm going to start filing police complaints,'" he said.
When Hawaii News Now followed Brower through Ala Moana Brach Park, we saw him try to explain to a homeless man why he was destroying a cart "To see someone banging on stuff like that, it was very scary for me," Edward Ferreira said.
"I don't want to be threatening to anybody," Brower said. "I think it's threatening to steal things and then walk around with them like it's their own."
Brower said he has yet to take a cart from a homeless person who's pushing it, but that may be coming. He supports other efforts to remove abandoned property. The sledgehammer approach is his way of pitching in.
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