Thursday, May 07, 2015
Honolulu City Council accelerates its cruel crackdown on the homeless with new ban
It’s been eight months since the Honolulu City Council passed the [sit-lie] ban. At the time, council members urged Mayor Kirk Caldwell to find a temporary place for those sure to be displaced by sit-lie, but the city seems no closer to identifying such a place than it is to delivering the promised necessary services to get folks off the street — part of a cruel bait-and-switch that insisted sit-lie’s passage come first.
by Larry Geller
Civil Beat posted a well-reasoned editorial on the subject of the Honolulu city government’s misguided handling of its ever-growing homelessness crisis. From the start, it pulls no punches:
The annual homeless head count released recently by the City and County of Honolulu was a damning indictment of the half-baked efforts of city and state leaders to address what has become one of Oahu’s most pressing problems.
[Civil Beat, Honolulu City Council Must Stop the Sit-Lie Expansion, 5/6/2015]
I suggest you click over and read the full article, but in case you don’t, let me snip one more point that illustrates the failure of our “civic leaders” to lead:
Perhaps most troubling, the number of homeless veterans rose by 21 percent over last year to a total of 467. This despite Honolulu’s participation in a national, federally sponsored campaign to eliminate veteran homelessness in the 25 cities where it is most pronounced.
Honolulu stands alone among those cities in having a problem that has actually grown significantly worse since the program began, while other cities have eliminated veteran homelessness entirely.
Disappeared News has consistently condemned the city’s enactment of ordinances that criminalize homelessness while it does nothing that significantly addresses the need for truly affordable housing not only for the homeless but for the growing poverty sector of our economy. Nor does the city understand or seem to have any intent on pursuing a true Housing First program, which is an evidence-based remedy and cost-saver as well.
It’s no coincidence that when our daily paper talks about “affordable housing” they inevitably put the phrase in quotes. The city is responsible for zoning (except for the part usurped by the state through, for example, the HCDA). Neither entity cares to take those quotes off and see to it that low-rental housing is available in perpetuity for its citizens who desperately need it. Even should they feel remorse over their neglect and start today, it would take perhaps 10-20 years before the tens of thousands of housing units could become available.
The latest expansion of the sit-lie ban may be open to legal challenge if the mayor allows it to become law. But who will step forward to conduct that challenge?
So far the city has gotten away with illegally confiscating and destroying the personal effects of its homeless citizens in innumerable cruel and heartless raids—conducted by city personnel and overseen by the HPD. Far from enforcing the law, the HPD does not interfere when personal belongings such as ID or medicines are tossed into the garbage truck compactors.
If there is to be a challenge to the city’s conduct, it will have to come through the legal system. So far no challenge has been mounted. Although I’m a fan of the Hawaii ACLU, I can’t help but be impatient for action from that organization. It hasn’t happened, and it’s not clear what other organization is willing to step in and stand up for our poorest neighbors.
For what it’s worth, the ACLU isn’t getting my $20 until the civil liberties of so many people are defended by those very capable and caring attorneys.
Perhaps you could divert that $20 to buy a dictionary for the Mayor & City Council.
They consistently define affordable housing as being affordable for middle class. That's certainly important, but leaves too many working families outside looking in. And what good is a mandate for developers to keep rents affordable for 15 or 20 or even 30 years? That's just kicking the can down the road.
I saw an article someplace with the minimum income necessary to rent a modest 2-bedroom apartment in different cities, assuming that rent is no more than 30% of income (the standard definition for "affordable"). A minimum-wage worker in Honolulu would have to work 25 hours a day, 7 days a week. No, that's not a typo.
As for Housing First, that very successful program requires, by its very definition, a full range of support services. Any program that puts people into housing without those services is not Housing First, and is probably doomed to failure.
The Honolulu City Council passed Bill 6 knowing it is illegal. Here's the City's Managing Director Roy Amemia telling the Council just that: