No napping or texting?


POSTED: Friday, March 06, 2009

Punahou resident Bill Grant shares his food with homeless people at Kapiolani Regional Park when he barbecues. But it becomes upsetting when the residents of the park grab food off the grill.

“;They put their hand in our fruit salad,”; he said.

Because of such experiences, Grant supports a proposed city rule to reduce the homeless population in the park by banning the act of sleeping.

A City Council committee passed yesterday the first reading of Bill 2, which allows police officers to cite to anyone over 18 caught sleeping at the Waikiki park.

Councilman Charles Djou, who introduced the bill, said Kapiolani Park should be inviting for residents and tourists but has become a squatters camp and a private village.

“;It's become a de facto homeless encampment,”; he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union, however, said the bill would make homelessness a crime, fail to address the causes of homelessness and move the problem elsewhere.

“;The reality is that sunbathing, napping tourists — or those Hawaii residents in a higher socioeconomic status — are likely to be left alone while the homeless are arrested,”; Dan Gluck, ACLU senior staff attorney, said in an e-mail. “;This selective enforcement is patently unconstitutional and is likely to be challenged in short order.”;

He said the Council should focus on proven techniques, such as hiring more police officers or supporting community policing efforts.

Djou said he is willing to change the bill's wording but insists something must be done because the homeless are giving a poor image to Oahu's tourism center.

“;Kapiolani Park is the gateway to Waikiki. Waikiki is the heart of the tourism industry, and tourism is the heart of our economy,”; Djou said. “;Waikiki can ill afford any negative publicity.”;

The city tried to address the park's homeless population last year when it passed a law clarifying “;camping”; and outlawing it at public parks from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Djou said the law has been ineffective as vagrants pack up their stuff just before 10 p.m., then set up their tents after 5 a.m.

“;The intent of the law has been completely thwarted,”; he said.

Some residents opposed the bill.

Valeria Ignasio of Waikiki said the city should provide more affordable housing instead of rules.

“;I just feel sorry for the people,”; she said.

Misty Martin, a resident of the park for about two years, has been cited for camping. She packs up her tent every night and stays awake in a chair on the sidewalk.

If the city banned sleeping at the park, she said, she would adapt.

“;We'd probably try to stay here a little bit,”; she said. “;We all work. We're just trying to live.”;