Saturday, November 22, 2003

Evicted homeless got
motivated, mayor says

LIHUE >> Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste said yesterday his hard-line stand on evicting the homeless from the county parks has brought good results.

At a news conference, Baptiste said he forced the homeless living in the county's beach parks "to make an important life decision."

Last month, Baptiste put out a news release saying that anyone camping in a county beach park last Sunday without a valid county permit would be cited and jailed.

Most of the campers whose 60-day permits had expired were homeless, including many working poor who could not afford rent. Baptiste conceded yesterday the county itself was causing at least some of the un-permitted camping by being too generous with one-day permits after the 60-day permits had expired.

Kauai County is the only county in Hawaii without a homeless shelter.

On Sunday, most of the un-permitted campers left the parks. Only two citations were issued, and both of those families have since found places to live.

"Nobody is in the situation where they have no place to go," Baptiste said.

He said some of the homeless have left the island, many of the working poor who were living in the parks have found places to rent and that no one who has sought help finding shelter has been turned away.

The mayor said he actually had a plan to provide shelter to anyone who was unable to find a place to stay, but he could not say that at the beginning because he wanted those in the parks to seek real housing.

Baptiste said the county has identified two pieces of state property it wants to use for a shelter. One would be an interim tent city, the other for a permanent homeless shelter. He said he would not identify either until he could talk to community residents.

Baptiste said the issue has been both about the homeless and about the parks. He said he believes many homeless people could have found homes if motivated to do so and did not need to be living in the parks.


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