City Councilman Ikaika Anderson has introduced a bill that aims to get police more involved in enforcing the sidewalk nuisance law despite objections by homeless advocates who say the ordinance unfairly punishes the disadvantaged.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s enforcement actions using the "sidewalk nuisance ordinance" in combination with the city’s stored property ordinance to remove homeless people’s items from public property have drawn a mixed reaction from the public. Critics argue that funding for enforcement efforts could be better used to provide more services for those in need.
The sidewalk ordinance, which became law last year, allows only Department of Facility Maintenance personnel to "immediately and summarily remove" items deemed to be nuisances, while police have largely stood by to keep the peace.
"What’s happened is that by nightfall, sidewalk dwellers return knowing full well that the city does not have the resources to return to an area in a week or a week and a half," Anderson said.
Bill 3, which Anderson introduced Tuesday, ensures patrol officers could respond immediately, he said.
Honolulu Police Department officials did not have an immediate response Tuesday afternoon.
Jesse Broder Van Dyke, spokesman for Mayor Kirk Caldwell, said HPD officers have taken a more active role during recent enforcement actions, for instance, by citing people who violate park closure laws.
Initially, Anderson sought to change the wording in Bill 6, which was heard Tuesday by the Council Public Safety and Economic Development Committee. But the bill was shelved after city attorneys recommended that Anderson introduce an entirely new bill.
At least a half-dozen people testified against Bill 6.
Opponents pointed to the administration’s own estimates showing $330,000 has been spent on enforcement, contending that funding should instead go into programs that directly help the homeless and disadvantaged. Others maintained that Anderson is trying to criminalize homelessness.
H. Doug Matsuoka said he would return to Honolulu Hale to oppose any bill that threatens the civil rights of the homeless.
Homeless people are occupying sidewalk areas "because the price of housing is too high, and wages are very low. I think you should attack the causes of homelessness rather than alienating the homeless themselves and stripping them of their civil rights," Matsuoka said.
Anderson said people who violate the law should seek organized shelters. "City sidewalks are for traversing. … They are not for squatting, they are not for living, period," he said.