Waikiki businesses seek homeless solutions

Waikiki businesses seek homeless solutions
Published: Jun. 18, 2014 at 3:35 AM HST
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WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu's mayor is expected to unveil new initiatives on Wednesday to help move homeless people off the streets of Waikiki. Hotels and businesses hope the bills will reduce the complaints coming from tourists.

"The homeless issue has become our number one problem in Waikiki," said Rick Egged, president of the Waikiki Improvement Association.

Tourists paying big bucks for a dream vacation aren't thrilled with all the homeless blocking sidewalks and hanging out in parks. Egged is dealing with a growing number of complaints.

"During the course of a year, I'd get five or six and now I'm getting them almost daily," he said.

Hotels and businesses are also struggling to find solutions.

"Some of them sleep in doorways of businesses that don't have their own security at night, so the smaller businesses. They'll be right out on the sidewalk at night in front of our hotels, and of course our hotels can't do anything about them being on the sidewalk," said Egged.

Honolulu police have stepped up enforcement, citing people obstructing sidewalks and those lingering in parks after hours. Mayor Kirk Caldwell is expected to announce two measures targeting Waikiki. One bill would make it illegal to sit or lie down on sidewalks. A second measure would ban urinating or defecating in public spaces. Some advocates for the homeless oppose the bills.

"The punishment that occurs and all of the resources that we're using to move people off -- they'll move temporarily. They'll come back. I think it's really better to look at a real solution rather than band-aids," said Sheila Beckham, CEO of Waikiki Health.

Beckham said the focus should be on housing to get people off the streets. The city is moving forward with its Housing First program to help the chronically homeless, but the visitor industry wants immediate action before more tourists decide that they don't want to come back.

"There is no question that this is a societal issue that we've got to attack on a number of fronts, and you're not going to solve it overnight, but we can't let it get out of control. We have to make sure that we keep the public spaces for the public," said Egged.

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