Honolulu City Council passes 2 bills to keep Oahu sidewalks clear
By a vote of 6-to-3, Honolulu City Council passed two bills Wednesday that are designed to keep sidewalks on Oahu clear, but it could take a while before they are enforced. Bill 51 makes it illegal to "create, cause or maintain an obstruction" on a public sidewalk between six in the morning and ten at night. Bill 52 makes it a "Petty Misdemeanor" to set-up a LIVING space on sidewalks, as long as there's shelter space available.
By a vote of 6-to-3, Honolulu City Council passed two bills Wednesday that are designed to keep sidewalks on Oahu clear, but it could take a while before they are enforced.
Bill 51 makes it illegal to "create, cause or maintain an obstruction" on a public sidewalk between six in the morning and ten at night. Bill 52 makes it a "Petty Misdemeanor" to set-up a LIVING space on sidewalks -- but the police officer handing out the citation has to verify there's available shelter space for the person to go.
Language in the bills also requires city administrators to submit a report to the council on how it deals with the homeless problem. Mayor Kirk Caldwell didn't want that tweeting out: "Even though the City Council passed bills 51 and 52, they did not delink the need for a comprehensive homeless study before enforcement begins. Even with my signature, enforcement will be delayed. The public is crying out for help in clearing sidewalks for their own safety."
The measures go to his office next.
But it's not just when enforcement may happen that has some homeless advocates and houseless individuals worried, it's where they will go.
Take a walk around A'ala Park near Chinatown. The sidewalk is occupied by tents and cardboard structures -- temporary homes to people like Michael Moreno.
"The streets is like a backup plan, you know, if you're out here by yourself," Moreno said.
Moreno is houseless and usually finds a place to sleep either at a friend's home or the streets. When KITV4 met with him Wednesday, we talked about the two bills Honolulu's City Council passed that day that may narrow his options. He said the plan is not going to work.
"You got no place to go," he said. "Shelters is packed."
Homeless advocates agree. Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, Mateo Caballero, has spoken against these bills before. He now believes they won't be enforceable. He compares it to a similar bill that was passed in Boise, Idaho. It was later shot down by the 9th circuit Court of Appeals because the number of shelter beds AVAILABLE did not equal the number of people needing them. He said it's very similar to what's happening here on Oahu.
"We have over 5,000 people who are experiencing homelessness and on any given night we have as many as 24 hundred, 23 hundred beds available," Caballero said.