The Waikiki Neighborhood Board and community members applauded state Rep. Tom Brower on Tuesday, his first appearance at their monthly meeting since an attack by homeless youth on him during a walk though the growing Kakaako encampment last month.
Several members expressed concern that the encampment and others along nearby Ala Moana Boulevard and Atkinson Drive are out of control. However, Brower, who was taken to the hospital following the June 29 event, told the board he is undecided about whether to pursue charges against the two minors, who he said gave him an unprovoked beating.
"The attorney general’s office is bringing the case to the attention of the Honolulu Police Department," Brower said. "Because minors are involved, after police contact me, I’ll make a decision about whether to press charges."
Brower told the board he was investigating a complaint about the homeless encampment from the Children’s Discovery Center when initial contact was made by a teenager, who rode his skateboard into him and started pushing and hitting him. Another teenager also has come forward to take responsibility for the attack, which witnesses have said might have included 10 other people.
"At the aftermath of this ordeal, my concern is not necessarily for my own safety, but for the safety of families and children who frequent the Children’s Discovery Center or choose to spend a day at the park." Brower said.
Waikiki Neighborhood Board member Jeff Merz said Waikiki residents frequently document problems by sending pictures and video to state, city and outreach workers.
"There’s no excuse for what happened. If someone is living on the public sidewalk, he should be able to take their picture," Merz said.
Waikiki Neighborhood Board member Walt Flood said visitors often capture images of homelessness, too.
"They do it in Waikiki and in Kakaako, where the growth of the encampments sets a dangerous precedent," Flood said, adding that he and others worry that if Brower doesn’t take legal action, it could expose the community to greater risk.
Brower told the board that he is not bitter and remains committed to establishing homeless safe zones — an intermediary step that he introduced five years ago to assist those waiting for housing.
"Homeless are human beings, and they are going to camp somewhere," he said. "If the state is going to continue to allow camping there, maybe they can come up with a grid system."
Brower said decisions would need to be made about how much space each tent should occupy and whether amenities and reasonable security should be provided.