Five bills that would have made it a petty misdemeanor to lie or sit on city sidewalks or go to the bathroom in public were unexpectedly shelved by the City Council's Committee on Zoning and Planning.
Two of the bills introduced by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell would have instituted the prohibitions specifically in Waikiki. However, Councilman Ikaika Anderson, chairman of the Zoning and Planning Committee, suggested deferring all of the bills after administration officials testified on a wide-ranging plan to combat homelessness, saying it wouldn't be ready for several more months. There was also concern about a lack of public restrooms across Oahu.
"Before I will be willing to place these items back on a future committee agenda … I will need to hear specific details from the administration on how they plan to roll out an affordable housing program for working homeless and homeless families," Anderson told reporters. "And, I will also need to hear from the administration their plans to implement a housing first initiative."
Anderson was spearheading two of the bills that would have criminalized lying down or sitting on sidewalks and public defecation/urination island-wide. However, the mayor said Thursday that was never his intention. Caldwell blasted committee members for failing to move forward on his Waikiki-specific bills, saying that was never a concern with the city's stored property or sidewalk nuisance laws.
"Do we have enough bathrooms? Do we have enough shelter space? I don't know why that became an issue now, because it could be an issue with the stored property ordinance and sidewalk nuisance law," Caldwell said in a news conference. "If we shouldn't go forward with sit-lie, should we stop doing the other two?"
When the mayor announced plans to continue his program of "compassionate disruption" toward the homeless with his two Waikiki-centric bills, council members were told 10 Housing First units under a joint program with the state would be ready in August. However, that has yet to come to fruition and a request for proposals for another 100 Housing First units won't be ready until at least August. Housing First is a program that finds shelter for the chronically homeless before they begin receiving services for mental health issues and drug addiction.
Nonetheless, the mayor insisted Thursday that enough public and private resources exist to move ahead with his sit-lie bill in Waikiki as well as the prohibition against defecating and urinating in public. Caldwell said at last check there were 116 available beds at emergency shelters in urban Honolulu and the restroom at the police substation in Waikiki will soon be open 24/7, while other public restrooms along Kuhio Beach are available from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m.
"I say let's see how it works in Waikiki," said the mayor. "We know there's enough shelter space and we know there's a bathroom that they can use 24/7 and three they can use from 5 to 10."