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Hawaii officials revisit homeless bills

August 19, 2014 - 12:05am

HONOLULU — A Honolulu planning board plans to revisit a set of bills that would ban sitting and lying down on sidewalks in Waikiki at the urging of the visitor industry.

The visitor industry will help provide support for programs when the bills are revisited, Waikiki Improvement Association President Rick Egged told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The industry hopes to raise $500,000 annually to work with the Institute for Human Services to help alleviate chronic homelessness, Egged said.

Honolulu’s Zoning and Planning Committee plans to revisit the package of bills on Aug. 28.

The bills also include a proposal to ban sitting and lying down on sidewalks throughout Oahu and another to ban defecating and urinating in public areas statewide.

The bills were previously tabled to give Mayor Kirk Caldwell time to provide details about the Housing First program, which aims to provide permanent housing to homeless people, said Ikaika Anderson, chairman of the zoning and planning committee. Feedback has been mixed since the bills were deferred, Anderson said.

“I do believe that the public urination and defecation bills pertaining to Waikiki and islandwide need to pass, but I’m also convinced that the administration needs to give the Council a definitive timetable for Housing First,” Anderson said. “It’s unacceptable when they tell us it will be implemented in August and a few weeks later we hear that it will be October at the earliest.”

There are about 50 to 100 chronically homeless people who sit on sidewalks in Waikiki, Caldwell said. But insisting that the city enact bans islandwide where there are an estimated 5,000 homeless people is foolhardy, he said.

“On a recent count, there were 115 shelter spaces in urban Honolulu where people could go,” he said.

Homelessness is marring Hawaii’s image as a safe destination and is frightening visitors and tourism workers alike, said Barry Wallace, executive vice president at Outrigger Enterprises. The company supports setting limits for Waikiki’s homeless and plans to help fund the IHS?plan, he said.

“I think I speak for everyone in the visitor industry when I say that we all recognize that homelessness is the most serious problem that we face,” Wallace said.

Councilwoman Kymberly Pine said she is philosophically opposed to the bills, adding that they don’t align with her image of the Aloha State.

“To arrest people who are sitting or lying down in their worst moment is just not the Hawaii where I was raised,”?Pine said.

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