Council committee clears homeless bills

Council committee clears homeless bills
Published: Jun. 27, 2014 at 2:13 AM HST
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Honolulu City Council members
Honolulu City Council members

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two measures issued by Mayor Kirk Caldwell and passed by the city Council's Zoning and Planning committee would make it illegal to sit or lie down on sidewalks, or urinate and defecate in public in Waikiki.

"The administration does know that this bill does and should work in tandem with making sure that there is adequate shelter available and ultimately permanent housing," city Deputy Managing Director Georgette Deemer said.

The bills are aimed at cleaning up Honolulu's busy tourist district.  They received mixed reaction from testifiers. "We need housing first -- not jail first," said Kathryn Xian of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery.

Council members also heard testimony on three other homeless bills.

Carol Fukunaga's bill to keep homeless off sidewalks in Chinatown and downtown was deferred.

Councilman Ikaika Anderson's bills to extend a sit–lie and urination-defecation ban to all of Oahu cleared the committee.

"If you only include Waikiki and Chinatown to Ward Avenue, we're right in between. They're already moving in. They read the papers. They've heard about this," Makiki resident Charles Canipe said. "To me an all island ban is like saying to some of our most vulnerable citizens, 'Gotcha! Now where are you going to go?'" Chinatown resident David Atcheson said.

If the bills become law violators could be fined up to $1,000 and spend up to 30 days in jail.

"So what's the deal? You're going to fine people that don't have any money? So they're not going to able to pay the fine. So you're going to put them in jail,?" David Csnnel of Honolulu said.

The mayors sit–lie bill is patterned after a Seattle ordinance that's limited to certain places and certain times. The Waikiki ban would be round the clock.

"It only covers the daylight hours. So making it 24 hours a day would also call into question its constitutionality," Xian said.

"This 24-hour prohibition, we believe, is justifiable because of the numerous businesses and commercial operations that are open 24 hours in Waikiki," Deemer said.

Opponents of sit–lie and urination-defecation laws question their effectiveness. But one testifier who came out of homelessness encouraged the Council members to do something for the homeless.

"At least help them out to get them off the street or into a better place or better shelters that's willing to help the families," Josie Imua said.

The full Council will take up the bills at its next meeting in July.

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