Public Parks Not For The Homeless

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - February 25, 2009
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Homeless squatters in a public park

I read a commentary recently where the writer said those of us who want to kick the homeless out of public parks have a let-them-rot attitude.

I’ve never felt that way. Nor have Hawaii’s government leaders, although our mayor has ducked responsibility and says it’s the governor’s problem. We do have shelters for those who are homeless through some temporary misfortune and agree to rules against drunkenness, drug use, violence and excessive noise.

I think most of us have little sympathy for those who balk at reasonable shelter rules and say, “No thanks, I prefer living in the park.”

I might be able to go for that myself: a small public assistance check and a beachside tent site instead of the work-and-pay-rent-or-mortgage grind.

Some of the park homeless are mental cases. They terrify tourists and local families. They can be rude and threatening and scary. They must be evicted.

We ban using Kapiolani Park at night and are proposing to ban day use as a temporary or permanent dwelling or sleeping place. But that’s full of potential legal loopholes. Am I subject to arrest if I put up a small tent for shade and decide to take an afternoon nap? Is a canopy minus sides a tent?


If there are sometimes 300 “campers” in Kapiolani Park, how could our jail facilities possibly handle all of them if police did a strict crackdown?

I’d go along with laws similar to those in Las Vegas and Orlando to forbid mass feedings of the homeless in parks by mobile food wagons because we have feeding stations at IHS and River of Life. I know the Kau Kau Wagon folks will scream bloody insensitivity.

City Councilman Charles Djou (East Oahu, including Waikiki) has said, “I’m glad we’re cleaning up our city parks. I am very sympathetic for those who don’t have homes. The city should be compassionate and find social services for all of them, but the law is the law and it should be enforced.”

It isn’t. I don’t see HPD hustling folks into paddy wagons, even those obviously setting up camp sites with all their belongings in bags and boxes.

Cities from Laguna Beach to Key West have gotten downright aggressive about rousting the homeless from their parks, some even burning their tents and belongings. We’ve been disinclined to be that harsh, but the complaints from residents and tourists are getting louder, and we can’t ignore that.

How will police distinguish the vagrant and homeless from someone just enjoying a day in the park? I guess it’s as the Las Vegas mayor says about their enforcement: “Certain truths are self-evident. You know who’s homeless.”

Our courts should be sympathetic to our control laws because we’ve done major outreach to help the homeless into shelters. Most who aren’t going just don’t want to go. So far, we haven’t done any unreasonable things, like San Francisco’s law to limit the number of bags a person can carry on a public sidewalk or street.

I’d like to see the vagrants and the homeless gone from Kapiolani Park right now.

I know my position might come across as material self-interest trumping liberal ideology, but, hey, our laws on T-shirt vendors and lease-to-fee land reform did that too.

There is room in the social contract for material self-interest.


three star

State Rep. Tom Brower is on the right track proposing to ban electric YoScooters from Waikiki sidewalks. His only boo-boo is the selective nature of the ban.

We need to get all propelled and wheeled devices off all sidewalks, except for wheel-chairs and electric carts for the disabled. Why we ever allowed Segways puzzles me. We ban bikes on Waikiki sidewalks, but not in other residential neighborhoods, for some odd reason.

Sidewalks are for pedestrians and disability vehicles, hot for cars, bikes, scooters, Segways or mopeds.


three star

No matter what you think of the guy, Mayor Mufi Hannemann sure delivers one helluva State of the City speech, and in tone and substance makes Gov. Lingle fade into political nothingness. Budget in next week; OK with killing TheBoat; he and Cabinet taking no-pay days.

And the kicker: “You know me. I’m just a local boy from Kalihi.” Does that require royalties to former Gov. Ben Cayetano?


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