Bill on sleeping is put to rest


POSTED: Friday, October 09, 2009

A proposal to ban sitting, sleeping or lying down on public sidewalks has been shelved by the City Council amid concerns by members that it targets the homeless.

Councilman Charles Djou, chairman of the Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee, recommended deferring Bill 69, which he introduced, after six members of the committee expressed opposition to moving it forward.

Members instead proposed convening a meeting of government officials, homeless advocates and service providers to get at the root of the issue and study why homeless are not seeking out free shelters and treatment services.

“;All I hear from most politicians on this issue is a lot of talk and no substantive action,”; said Djou, whose district includes Waikiki. “;Yet another meaningless resolution and yet more talk will not solve this problem.”;

But Council members balked at the proposal as well as an amended version that would have allowed sitting and created specific urban zones in which sleeping or lying down would be prohibited.

“;I'm not in support of Bill 69 and criminalizing those without homes,”; Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said.

“;No one wants to sleep on the sidewalk. No one wants to sleep in parks. But as they close parks, they've had to move to sidewalks,”; Kobayashi said.

Councilman Romy Cachola added that the creation of urban zones would simply move homeless to other communities.

“;You pit one community over the other,”; he said.

Djou said he modeled the proposal on similar laws that have survived constitutional court challenges in Seattle and Phoenix.

Lori Nishimura, deputy city prosecutor, said the office was in support of the concept, but said the bill could face constitutional challenges in Hawaii, based on the state Supreme Court's past rulings that often have been favorable to defendants in such cases.

Cachola noted that the law would stretch already thin resources, giving police officers “;more things to do other than fighting crimes.”;