City had no heart for homeless, gov says
A city official notes the Ala Moana effort stirred the state to act
Gov. Linda Lingle described as "pure shibai" one of the reasons Mayor Mufi Hannemann's administration gave for moving homeless people out of Ala Moana Beach Park.
On the same day the state opened a temporary shelter in Kakaako for the homeless who were displaced from the park, the governor criticized the city for not doing enough to help the homeless after they were evicted from Ala Moana.
"I think it should've been done in a different way," Lingle told reporters yesterday.
Bill Brennan, the mayor's press secretary, noted that had the city not closed the park at night, the state might never have stepped up to address homelessness in Hawaii.
"You can see by the fact that the state went into action after the Ala Moana Park closure that they can and they have the expertise and the resources to provide shelter for the homeless," Brennan said.
The city began closing the park at night on March 27, moving out about 200 homeless people. City officials said the park needed to be closed at night to prepare for a major renovation of park facilities, which occurred last week.
But they also said that they wanted to close the park before the state began evicting homeless people living under the freeway at the Keehi Interchange.
Lingle said city officials were not honest in using the freeway eviction, which came after police reported illegal activities in the area, as an excuse to get rid of homeless people at Ala Moana park.
"Let me put it clearly: That is shibai, pure shibai. Let's call it for what it is. Those two things were completely unrelated," Lingle said. "They wanted to paint some pavilions and move some sand around, and they wanted the people out of the park."
Lingle said it is a "reasonable position" for the city not to want people living in a public park. She said she also believes that public parks are for the general public, which is why she decided against setting up a homeless shelter at Sand Island State Park.
"I think you should just come out and say people are going to have to leave the park and give them a certain number of days, and you bring in service providers, you look for alternatives," she said. "But to say because we cleaned up a drug and gambling area that the police had told us about as why they shut the park is just pure shibai."
Brennan said there is a direct relationship between the state's impending evictions and the city's decision to close the park when it did.
"We figured if those homeless folks came to Ala Moana park, then the criminal element that preyed upon those homeless people would follow them to Ala Moana park after they were evicted by the state from the Keehi Interchange, and that had a direct relationship on our decision to close the park when we did," Brennan said.
Lingle said the way the city handled the homeless situation at Ala Moana "shows no compassion whatsoever."
"I don't think (the city) did enough. I don't think they understand the nature of the problem," said Lingle.
The governor said while she knows that the city employees who work with the homeless are compassionate, she does not think they were part of the decision-making.
"We had those compassionate people who work in the city ... in attendance at every meeting and discussion that took place with regards to the closure of Ala Moana Beach Park," Brennan responded. "So if she has a feeling that they weren't included, her feeling is off base."