Ban won't solve homeless problem


POSTED: Monday, February 16, 2009

CITY Council Chairman Todd Apo can be forgiven if he engages in a bit of schadenfreude, now that homelessness once concentrated in his district has migrated to the heart of Oahu's tourism zone.

At a meeting on a bill for a 24-hour ban on sleeping in Kapiolani Park in Waikiki, Apo noted that Leeward Coast residents have been living with the problem for years. “;A part of me thinks, 'Welcome to my community's life,'”; Apo said, adding, “;This isn't a new issue.”;

Indeed it isn't. However, he, his fellow Council members and Mayor Mufi Hannemann have postponed finding solutions to the problem.

The city's main tactic has been to close its parks through the night to prevent people without shelter from setting up tents and living along the beaches. The result has been to send the homeless shuttling from place to place.

Kapiolani Park is just one of the latest sites. Smack dab in the tourism mecca, their presence has alarmed businesses already hurting from the economic downturn and who fear for Hawaii's paradisiacal image. Visitors and residents complain about the down-and-out, some of whom aggressively panhandle.

The Council's reaction has been to stretch the current ban on sleeping there from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. to 24 hours a day. But enforcement across the park's 500 acres would be difficult. In addition, discriminatory application of the ban would draw legal challenges.

Homelessness is a problem with multiple causes, none of which are easily resolved. Nonetheless, officials cannot continue to put off dealing with it.