The Problem With Being Pro-homeless

A homeless camper on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki  BOB JONES PHOTO

A homeless camper on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki


There seems to be a cluster of compassionate folks opposed to any “criminalization” of the homeless — that is, they cringe at confiscating their sidewalk goods, forbidding them to sit or lie on sidewalks or, God forbid, arresting them.

Then there’s American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, which has defended the right of that De-Occupy group to establish tents, sofas, tables and generator-operated TVs on public sidewalks.

There seems to be some core misunderstanding here, and somebody needs to set things right. I guess that’s me.

There is no “right” in the federal or state constitutions, the Hawaii statutes or the county ordinances to encamp upon public-owned property. There is a right to free speech, which includes talking, holding signs and protesting in a fashion that does not deny use of that property to other citizens.

Courts have never sided with overnight sleeping on sidewalks, beaches or streets.

That’s one issue disposed of.

The other is not a legal one. It’s our definition of and perception of “homelessness.”

There are a couple of classes of those who merit our compassion. Those temporarily down on their luck or genuinely unable to qualify for rental space, and those with mental problems and addictions. We need to spend the time and money to deal with those.

Then we have those who come here for our climate, won’t take available jobs that would get them off the streets, troll for casual drugs and get a kick out of hanging out in Waikiki. We need to deal with them, too, and that’s where sitlie and other laws come into play. A society has limits to its tolerance.

Waikiki became a magnet for debate on “anti-homeless” ordinances because that’s where a gaggle of the latter class of homeless congregated.

It’s a pretty fun place for the mainlanders in their 20s and 30s to hang out. Shucks, in my 20s, I slept a couple of nights on the streets of Paris, a baguette in hand. It was very romantic.

We never took the Waikiki hangouts seriously. We tolerated the sleeping, the drugs and those sidewalk merchants posing as “artists.”

Now the problem has risen up and bitten us. So we have to bat it down. Take back our sidewalks, even if a few temporary-down-and-outers get snared in the net.

The hardcore are wily, probably with some legal advice. You saw how fast after the Waikiki sit-lie law they tried out state land at DeRussy Beach.

I don’t understand why ACLU thinks there’s a civil liberties issue here. There isn’t, because civil liberties come from a Constitution that’s silent on our case.

Nobody’s suggesting mass arrests of the homeless.

But confiscating and trashing their tents, beach umbrellas, tarps and sleeping bags is a good, legal start at reclaiming our sidewalks and beaches. And maybe reconsider contributions to ACLU?