Bills stall as Honolulu council seeks plan for homeless

Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI), 2014-07-25


July 25 -- The City Council Zoning and Planning Committee voted Thursday to defer indefinitely three bills banning sitting and lying on sidewalks and two bills banning urination and defecation in Waikiki and elsewhere on Oahu .

Mayor Kirk Caldwell had appeared to have the support of most Council members when he announced sit-lie and urination-defecation prohibitions in Waikiki last month as part of a two-pronged plan to combat homelessness. Council members even held a special meeting to speed up passage.

But Thursday they voiced frustration at what they viewed as a lack of progress by the administration on plans to provide shelter for the chronically homeless through a Housing First initiative. They questioned the wisdom of passing laws forcing people off the streets before making accommodations for them.

Caldwell said he was "very disappointed" that Council members are raising concerns about points they had not previously considered deal-breakers.

Zoning Chairman Ikaika Anderson , who stood with Caldwell at a news conference introducing the bills in June, said he expects the measures to be heard again by his committee, but not until the administration can provide details and timelines for its plans to shelter homeless.

Pamela Witty-Oakland , city community services director, told the committee a plan to issue 10 vouchers to homeless individuals has been delayed indefinitely because the strategy required getting funding for support services through the state, something that had not yet happened.

The administration will issue housing vouchers for 100 other chronically homeless at a cost of $3 million annually, but that plan can't move until proposals are solicited in August and a vendor is selected in October, Witty-Oakland said.

It will take several years to use roughly $44 million in capital improvement funds set aside by the Council to develop permanent housing, she said.

Council members said they don't want to pass sit-lie and urination-defecation bills before shelter and services are available for the homeless.

Councilman Breene Harimoto said that with nowhere to go, "they will get fined, they will get arrested, they will be jailed and have a criminal record. How is that going to help them?"

Administration officials insisted there is enough shelter space available today to help the chronically homeless in Waikiki , and lobbied unsuccessfully to have only the Waikiki sit-lie bill advance, noting the importance of clearing sidewalks in the state's main tourist destination.

Caldwell later reminded reporters that bills prohibiting sit-lie and urination-defecation for outside Waikiki were proposed by Council members.

Martin, Anderson and others pressed for details on other homeless plans, such as whether there have been commitments by state to allow for use of its lands for homeless projects and whether safe-zone areas for the homeless are part of the plan. Administration officials said only that such plans are still under consideration or being worked out.

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