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Kokua Line

Library’s location attractive for homeless and their trash

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Question: Why have homeless people been allowed to stack their belongings on the streets alongside and behind the McCully-Moiliili Public Library? It’s terrible to see the people who use this library being held hostage to the trash stacked along the library’s parking area. No such problem at Aina Haina or Kaimuki libraries — why at McCully-Moiliili?

Answer: Probably because of location.

Earlier this year, after the city extended its closing hours at Kapiolani Park to discourage homeless camping, the homeless population around the McCully-Moiliili Library nearly tripled in size, according to the library branch manager.

The library also is near Old Stadium Park, where many homeless people congregate, said Paul H. Mark, spokesman for the Hawaii State Public Library System.

Since the city began closing parks at night, police have stepped up enforcement, which has resulted in homeless people often moving to the library’s grounds after it closes, he said.

Unfortunately, Mark noted, "There is no easy solution to the homeless situation, which is a serious challenge throughout our state."

He said McCully-Moiliili Library staff contact police nearly every day to report incidents involving homeless people.

"For example, the library’s main-entrance door lock has been vandalized, a hand railing was maliciously torn from the wall and outdoor plants have been damaged," Mark said.

The janitor also has to clean up after the homeless each day before the library reopens, he said, but library staff have been threatened by homeless people when attempting to move items left on sidewalks.

Why can’t police roust them off the surrounding sidewalk?

The Honolulu Police Department has informed the library that it "does not have the authority to remove the homeless from public sidewalks," Mark said.

(There are proposals before the City Council to make it illegal to camp on any public property, including sidewalks and medial strips.)

The branch manager attended a Homeless Town Meeting last month to seek assistance, and the McCully-Moiliili Neighborhood Board was contacted. In response it has organized a citizens patrol.

Library patrons can help by contacting City Council members and state legislators to express their concerns, Mark said, while neighborhood residents can help by immediately calling police if they hear or see something wrong when the library is closed.

Question: About driving and talking on the cell phone: I’m a front-seat passenger. The driver’s phone rings, I answer it and hold it to the driver’s ear. She talks but keeps both hands on the wheel. Is this legal? Will the driver get a citation? She says yes, I say no. Who is right?

Answer: You are.

The law prohibiting "using" a mobile electronic device while driving defines "using" as holding the device.

"However, the (Honolulu Police Department) hopes that drivers and passengers will place a higher priority on their safety and the safety of those around them than on personal convenience," said Maj. Thomas Nitta, commander of the Traffic Division.

 

AUWE

To the motorcyclist who left Nanakuli on Thursday using his cell phone while driving! We followed him for three miles while he kept talking on the speakerphone. Oh, for safety, he was wearing a helmet. Double duh! — Peggy

Write to "Kokua Line" at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail kokualine@staradvertiser.com.

 

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