Homeless could live in parks at night
A bill would repeal a trespassing law dealing with parks
Mayor Mufi Hannemann is expected to decide soon whether to keep Ala Moana Beach Park closed at night beyond the end of this month.
Even if he makes it permanent, a bill alive in the state Legislature could make it difficult for police to enforce the night closure.
Senate Bill 2687, HD 1, would repeal a state criminal trespass law that makes it a petty misdemeanor to remain in a public park after being asked to leave by a law enforcement officer for violating park rules. Petty misdemeanors are punishable by up to 30 days in jail and $1,000 fine.
The House and Senate have approved the bill, but members of the House passed a version with a 2096 effective date to prevent its passage without further discussion.
One prominent opponent of the bill is Lawrence Miike, a former state Health Department director, who is petitioning lawmakers not to approve it. Miike said he uses the park regularly and has seen the problems caused by people living in the park worsen over the years. He believes the bill has not attracted much attention because it is being promoted as a measure to prevent criminalization of the homeless.
"It doesn't. This bill really is to allow people to live in the park," Miike said.
He said the bill would usurp the city's police powers to enforce park rules.
But there are other laws on the books police can use to enforce park rules, said Bob Nakata, an advocate for the homeless.
"That law is really bad for the homeless who are working, the ones with the best chance of finding a place," Nakata said.
If they are arrested, they could lose their jobs, Nakata said. Or if they are harassed, they would not get a good night's sleep and not be presentable for work the next morning, he said.
People have been urging Hannemann to continue the night closure, said Bill Brennan, city spokesman.
One of them is Miike's wife, Kiliwehi Kono. She submitted a petition with the signatures of 106 park users.
"There are other parks that are less used," Kono said.
She suggests Sand Island and Keehi Lagoon. And she is wondering what happened to plans to use Kalaeloa.
Nakata said Sand Island is one of the possible safe zones being considered for the homeless.