The City and County of Honolulu has reversed its decision to close its more than 300 park restrooms around the island while the parks are closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The change in course came after various groups who advocate for the homeless urged city officials to keep the restrooms open.
The boarded up restrooms will be reopened Wednesday for public use, according to a news release issued this afternoon by the city Department of Parks and Recreation.
The city said it will reopen the comfort stations, but the parks will remain closed and no other facilities will be open.
“DPR continues to urge the public to avoid gathering in large groups of 10 people or more and to practice social distancing by maintaining six feet of distance between individuals,” the department said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laid out guidelines that included keeping park restrooms open to allow the homeless to use them and not to cause them to disperse, when they should be sheltering in place to protect themselves and the rest of the community.
However, on Monday the city’s homeless czar, Marc Alexander, stood firmly on his position that he and other city officials are carefully working on options that include hygiene trailers and portable toilet and washrooms in some areas instead of opening the existing park restrooms. He also urged the homeless to seek shelter, although there is a lack of space for the 2,400 unsheltered homeless.
The news came just before a press conference was to be held by the group Hui Aloha. The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii and the Institute for Human Services, the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board, and Puuhonua o Waianae are among the organizations urging the city to follow the CDC guidelines.
Mayor Mike Victorino said he will consider doing the same for Maui County in light of the CDC guidelines, but for now the county has several existing portable latrines around the island kept open for use.