Getting Homeless Out Of Parks

A too-familiar sight in Honolulu | Bob Jones photo

This whole homeless-in-Hawaii issue is fraught with political and emotional overtones – so much that there really is no compromise solution that will have all sides saying “well, it’s not perfect but it’s the best we could do.”

There are those who won’t recognize the word homeless. They like houseless or no descriptive word at all. On the far left of this teeter-totter are those who claim it’s our capitalist system that has priced people out of the rental market.

There are those who make a case that many of our sidewalk, park and beach dwellers simply prefer that mode of life, won’t work, or made themselves homeless through drug and alcohol addiction, or have mental problems. On the far side are those who believe other states are sending their homeless to Hawaii with one-way air tickets.

In the middle are people such as myself – we acknowledge many of the issues above but are frustrated because we have or easily can have shelters for all these public-property dwellers but they refuse to move in because shelters come with rules.

I’d prefer some so-called “safe zones” – unused or little used pieces of city/state property near the central city and help agencies and where anyone can temporarily erect a tent, use the public bathroom, but agree to a ban on alcohol and drugs. The zone(s) would have to be policed with armed, well-trained security guards.

I’m a compassionate person but I maintain that marginal members of society cannot tramp on the rest of us. It’s why we have laws. The homeless cannot camp on sidewalks, parks and beaches, and it’s proper for society to confiscate the belongings of those who do. I have no problem with city trucks trolling and confiscating tents, supermarket baskets and other accoutrements.

To do otherwise encourages some very inventive people who game the system.

This isn’t any more cruel than any other laws to keep society from falling into mob rule. No more cruel than the law that says I can’t park my car on the public street 24 hours every day.

It’s right to provide shelters and/or safe zones for those unable to provide for themselves. But there must be some effort on the homeless side, too. We probably need a triage system to determine who’s briefly on hard times and who’s faking it in order to have a waterfront tent-tarp hangout.

The American Civil Liberties Union carps that our laws tend to target the homeless, and I guess that’s true, except that they also prevent me from setting up a weekend retreat at Queen’s Surf Beach. They don’t prevent (de)Occupy Honolulu members from standing on the sidewalk with protest signs. They prevent them from legally camping on the sidewalk – and should.

The alternative is chaos.