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City expands area for ‘sit-lie’ restriction

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    On the makai side of Aala Park on King St., a homeless tent.

The city Monday added Pacific Street in Iwilei and several areas from Victoria to McCully streets to the long list of commercial areas where people can no longer sit or lie.

The bill that Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed Monday on Pacific Street to expand the city’s so-called “sit-lie” law represents another piece of an overall strategy that includes sweeping homeless encampments until the occupants seek services, including housing.

The approach includes two other city laws — the separate stored property and sidewalk nuisance ordinances — that two special cleanup crews enforce every day around Oahu to clear homeless encampments.

“We have a very vigorous compassionate disruption program going on for the past four or so years, and I think it’s made a difference both in how our community looks and also allows people to move down our sidewalks and in our parks much more freely,” Caldwell told reporters. “But I also believe it’s resulted in more people seeking shelter and in our housing.”

Caldwell cited results from the city’s sweep of the Navy’s Pearl Harbor Historic Trail on the makai side of Blaisdell Park in Pearl City on Aug. 8, which saw 43 people and their pets end up in transitional housing, mostly at the Waianae Civic Center shelter, which allows animals.

The Waianae Civic Center took in 33 people from Blaisdell Park. Another ended up at the Institute for Human Services’ women’s shelter, and nine others were housed by family and friends, the city said.

Marc Alexander, executive director of the city’s Office of Housing, said approaches like sit-lie are driven by the overall goal of getting people into housing.

Alexander called sit-lie “another tool in a very complicated tool chest,” adding, “But it’s all focused on helping people.”

Honolulu police Capt. Stephen Silva said homeless people on Pacific Street will be given two weeks’ warning before police enforce the newest sit-lie bans.

Pacific Street runs behind the Iwilei Lowe’s store and in front of City Mill.

A group of about a dozen homeless people Monday watched Caldwell’s bill signing from their encampment on Pacific Street and shook their heads at the thought of another police crackdown coming their way. They said they were pushed into Iwilei about a year ago when police began enforcing sit-lie in other business districts.

“I’ve been on the street over 10 years,” Lani Reiger, 48, told the Honolulu Star-­Advertiser. “Where can we go?”

Sit-lie can pass constitutional muster only if it’s enforced in business districts, Caldwell said.

But private property owners can call police to have squatters cited for trespassing, Silva said.

A third cleanup crew has been authorized, and the city is working to hire four people for the work, which begins daily at 2 a.m.

Caldwell acknowledged that it’s difficult to find the right people to clear homeless encampments.

“You’re out in the rain, you’re dealing with ukus and centipedes and human feces and hypodermic needles, and you’re dealing with people who are angry, sometimes, when they get disrupted in the middle of the night,” Caldwell said. “So it’s a certain kind of person we’re looking for.”

Councilman Joey Manahan pushed to have the new areas included in the city’s sit-lie law. He agreed with Caldwell and Alexander that sit-lie is part of a bigger approach to get homeless people into permanent housing.

Before sit-lie was first imposed on other parts of Iwilei in May, “a few months ago it was really overwhelmed and overcome by illegal encampments,” Manahan said. “Sit-lie still remains a tool for us to … steer people into the right programs … to get these folks the services they do need.”

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