HONOLULU (KHON2) — In September of 2021, Maui County Officials conducted a sweep of Pu‘uhonua o Kanahā, a houseless encampment near Kanahā Beach Park.
On Thursday, Nov. 17, the Hawai’i Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments from a lawsuit challenging the legality of the MCO’s sweep.
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Lisa Darcy is with Share Your Mana, and she works with and advocates for the Kanahā community. She said, “The opportunity for the plaintiffs to be heard by the Supreme Court honors the gravity of their situation. This space is an opportunity to create a safer and a more equitable future for every person, regardless of housing status.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai’i filed the lawsuit in October of 2021 on behalf of some of the residents of Kanahā encampment. The lawsuit questions the due process of MCO’s choice to conduct the sweep.
According to the filings, the ACLU alleges that Maui County Officials did not give notice to the residents of the impending sweep and did not allow them the opportunity to speak on their own behalf before their encampment and possessions were seized and destroyed.
Although dozens of residents of the Kanahā encampment proffered requests for MCO to forego the sweep, the ACLU claims that their submissions were ignored.
While Maui County Officials believe the Kanahā encampment residents have no rights to be on public land, thereby moving forward with their sweep, the residents believe their constitutional right to due process was forfeited.
“We hope the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court rejects Maui County’s stunning argument that houseless
people forfeit their constitutional rights simply because they live in public spaces. Constitutional
due process does not turn on whether one is housed in a structure with four walls and a roof,”
said ACLU of Hawaiʻi Legal Director, Wookie Kim.
The Second Court of Appeals agreed with the Kanahā encampment residents in March of 2022, stating that “here, constitutional due process required a contested case hearing before [Maui County] conducted the Kanahā Sweep.”
This led MCO to appeal the decision.
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Sonia Davis, a Kanahā plaintiff, said, “I’m grateful. This makes me feel like there really are people out there who care about what we go through living on the streets.”