IHS: Sit-Lie Ban is working in Waikiki

IHS: Sit-Lie Ban is working in Waikiki
Published: Feb. 10, 2015 at 9:19 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 10, 2015 at 10:55 PM HST
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WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - There is a noticeable difference in Waikiki. There area less people seen sleeping on sidewalks, benches and on the grass along Kalakaua Avenue now.

"I think it is the combination that it is working, in the sense that Waikiki is much more presentable to our visitors," says Connie Mitchell, Executive Director for the Institute for Human Services, or IHS.

Mitchell credits one program, the Housing First Initiative, which provides the chronically homeless with a place to stay even before offering services. She also credits the controversial Sit-Lie ban, which makes it illegal to do both on public sidewalks.

"It was actually the Waikiki Tourism Industry that brought the idea of doing a sit-lie bill to us, modeling on what other cities have done," says Jesse Broder Van Dyke, Spokesman for the City, "They were really concerned about the Waikiki tourist district in particular."

IHS says almost 70 people have come to them for services since the ban went into effect in September.

"People are coming into the shelter," says Mitchell, "It's working the way it's supposed to."

Since enforcement of the ordinance started, Honolulu Police have issued 489 warnings, 110 citations, and there have been 2 arrests.

In December, the ban was extended to include the Downtown Business District and Chinatown.

Opponents of sit-lie say it simply moves the homeless from one place to the next, and doesn't solve the problem.

"Especially the keiki that I work with and the kupuna that need certain services or need to be in a certain area because they go to school in that area. It's really sad for me, to hear back from them that they've had to move so many blocks away and now it's difficult for them to get to school," says Raina Whiting of the homeless outreach group, "In the Streets."

Homeless advocates say the number of tents in Kakaako have almost doubled since the sit-lie ban does not apply to Kakaako.   Whiting says the increase there proves that not all of Waikiki's homeless are going to the shelter, but are being forced to find shelter elsewhere.
And the city's official homeless point-in-time count hasn't been released yet, but we have learned that the numbers in Waikiki actually went up slightly since last year, even with the new programs.
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