Council passes bills requiring studies before homeless encampment crackdowns

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The Honolulu City Council approved Wednesday two bills meant to crack down on homeless encampments.

Bill 51 makes it illegal to set up tents on sidewalks between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

(a) No person shall create, cause, or maintain an obstruction on a public sidewalk that interferes, impedes, and/or prevents the full, free, and unobstructed passage of pedestrians upon public sidewalks or interferes with the normal flow of pedestrian traffic upon a public sidewalk during the hours from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Bill 52 allows the city to clear the homeless into shelters.

(a) No person shall lodge on a public sidewalk or other public place.

(b) No law enforcement officer shall issue a citation, make an arrest, or otherwise enforce this section against any person unless:

(1) Shelter space is readily available;
(2) An offer has been made to transport the person to the available shelter; and
(3) The officer requests or orders the person to refrain from the alleged
violation of this section.

Both require comprehensive studies of each district, for a total of nine studies, before there can be any enforcement, a stipulation Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell had asked earlier this week to remove.

The Office of Housing and the Department of Community Services submit a comprehensive written report to the Council that outlines the City Administration’s implementation plan and action steps taken to expedite deployment of homeless services and housing solutions in each of the nine City Council districts, pursuant to Resolution 18-158, FD1;

“They can require us to make changes and amend it, but don’t link it to bills 51 and 52. De-link it,” Caldwell had urged.

“This is not about waiting for another report. We know what works. We know what needs to be done. Let us do our job. Let us all work together as a community so we can help people who are in need, so we can maintain public spaces for the public,” said Marc Alexander, executive director, Mayor’s Office of Housing.

Caldwell released a statement on social media following the bills’ passage that read:

“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.”

Caldwell has not indicated whether he plans to sign the bills into law.

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