Chinatown Hawaii: Honolulu city council passes 5 controversial homeless bills
HONOLULU — It was standing room only as dozens spoke their mind about five controversial bills regarding the homeless Thursday.
The Honolulu City Council held a special hearing where they passed laws that would prohibit sitting or lying on public sidewalks in Waikiki, Chinatown and possibly the entire island.
Bill 43 would make it illegal for people to relieve themselves in public in Waikiki, while Bill 42 and Bill 44 would prohibit people from lying and sitting down in Waikiki, Chinatown and Downtown.
“The growing homeless problem in Chinatown has made it increasingly hard for us to do business. Not a day goes by where we aren’t directly faced with a new challenge,” said Jeff Mull, a Chinatown business owner.
The last two bills, Bill 45 and Bill 46, would go one step further and make it illegal to poop and pee in public and lay on the sidewalks island-wide. Right now, there’s no law in the books prohibiting the public from doing those actions.
“If this bill only includes Waikiki and Chinatown to Ward Avenue – our neighborhood sits in between, so guess where they are going to come,” said Charles Canipe who supports the ban. “Already more and more homeless have come surrounding our block.”
But there were also plenty who testified against the proposals saying an island-wide law goes too far.
“No, please don’t do that. It’s one thing to include the zone of Waikiki, but the idea of applying the rules in one broad stroke island-wide saddens me,” said David Atcheson who is against the bill.
Some of those who testified in the packed special meeting offered alternative solutions to lawmakers.
“Basically, we need restrooms. It’s not medieval times. It’s a basic need. People have to go to the restroom,” said Dan Purcell who offered an alternative option.
While others say these laws won’t solve the homeless problem.
“We need housing first, not jail first. What we’re looking at is a very dangerous precedent of state sanction, criminalization of poverty and that’s not somewhere we want to go,” said Kathryn Xian who is against the bill.
The bills went before the zoning and planning committee where four out of five passed them.
Now, the bills will go before the full city council again on July 9 for a second public hearing and vote.