Wednesday, August 05, 2015


City Council created the Kakaako homeless encampment and must bear responsibility for any crime there

The homeless are treated as something scary, a specter that goes bump in the night, one that we attach all of our worst fears to. We separate them so far from ourselves that they practically become another species. But despite a generally held belief that people living outside are chronic criminals, the statistics simply don’t back that up. A John Hopkins study found that just 25 percent of homeless individuals have committed a crime against a person or property, compared to 35 percent of the general populationDailyDot

by Larry Geller

Honolulu’s city government has been kicking the issue of homelessness down the road for at least 20 years, which is about when people from parks and beaches started showing up at the community health centers for assistance.

Now the problem has become so acute that, realistically, a solution to homelessness (and the burgeoning poverty of which it is a symptom) is much more difficult.

So what does the city do? It’s much easier to sic the police on homeless people rather than find, implement and pay for effective solutions.

In other words, kick the can down the road some more.

The John Hopkins study cited in the pull-quote is rather old, but probably still holds. As I noted in an earlier article, the newspaper is exploiting crime figures for Kakaako while crime in other areas is much higher. So the paper is enabling the city to ignore the need to get busy working on real solutions for Hawaii.

Let’s take a closer look at the Kakaako encampment

First of all, it’s only there because scattered campers were first banished from parks and beaches and then banned from Waikiki and other areas by the City Council’s sit-lie ordinances and numerous sweeps and property seizures. This is the “cheap” approach: policing instead of social solutions. In reality, it costs taxpayers much more and no long-term benefit whatsoever.

So the Kakaako encampment is really the fallout of the city’s bad social policies.

At a higher level, homelessness, poverty, and also the Kakaako encampment are a result of more than a decade’s neglect of the growing housing and homelessness crises in the city. As rents continued (and continue) to spiral upwards, more individuals and families are forced over the edge and must either leave Hawaii or could end up homeless.

Let’s throw in the effect of untreated mental health issues—untreated because the state cut off supportive services that effectively maintained many people in their apartments. Without supports, many ended up on the streets. Again, bad social policy, but this time on the part of the state.

The media and the city council blame the homeless for their poverty while neglecting to mention how they got there. They don’t ask how people became homeless in the first place.

There are things that government can do to alleviate poverty in the state, create affordable housing, and ease economic discrimination. But they are still not doing any of it. There is still no Housing First. Wages continue to be depressed so that working people cannot pay the high rents. Of course, there is no rent control or regulation that would help keep people in their homes.

Instead, we have criminalization of the homeless.

No wonder that City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi was quoted in yesterday’s paper as being “frustrated.” The only relief for her frustration will come when the Mayor and City Council get busy working on solutions that will work for Honolulu.


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