Trisha Kajimura wrote a recent Community Voice editorial titled, “Publicizing Locations, Traits of Homeless People is Unwise.”  She was referring to a map state Rep. Gene Ward published in his newsletter.

The map depicted events pertaining to the homeless that were reported to the Hawaii Kai homeless task force by citizens.  The map did not identify any homeless person by name or even by physical description.  The purpose of the map was:

• To warn residents of potential dangers.

• To support our arguments that allowing homeless to live unsheltered is a bad idea.

The Hawaii Kai Homeless Task Force contends the map is one tool to address the area’s homelessness problem.

Bert Kimura/Flickr

As it turns out, the map has a third purpose. The Institute for Human Services wants us to create an updated version to help with its point-in-time count. We never thought for a moment the map had anything to do with finding solutions to the homeless crisis. For that, we have a comprehensive legislative plan to end homelessness now, with money the state is already spending. 

We also offer the homeless help through social service organizations. However, in the four months since our founding, not one homeless person accepted our offers of assistance. Addicts didn’t want to be in programs that might pressure them into sobriety. Others didn’t want to participate in housing programs if it meant spending time in shelters or pressuring them to find a job.

I’m not in the business of propagating stereotypes about any group. But we have to face facts: There is a big difference between the “economic homeless,” for example, those who became homeless solely because of the cost of housing and financial difficulties, and the chronic homeless.

National statistics show that about 80 percent of the chronic homeless are mentally ill, addicted to drugs, or a combination of the two. A small percentage are also “willfully homeless,” for example, they choose homelessness over the challenges of a more traditional life.

These statistics comport with events reported to us in Hawaii Kai by residents. For example, in November, a homeless methamphetamine addict in Portlock ran naked down a street wielding kitchen knives. Another meth addict in Portlock threatened people and was apparently so dangerous that his own mother had a restraining order against him.

A mentally ill homeless man terrified shoppers in Towne Center by screaming epithets at them. A homeless man used a charcoal barbecue near a jug of gasoline in a heavily wooded area, and another lit an illegal campfire threatening homes on Lunalilo Home Road. The Hawaii Kai Marina Community Association spent $83,000 to clean trash left by 20 homeless trespassers, and Kamehameha Schools spent $50,000 to clean rubbish left by only six.

There were many other incidents.

Tristia Bauman, an attorney with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in Washington, D.C., claimed the map was at odds with the constitutional right to ”move in and out of neighborhoods.” She failed to mention the Constitution doesn’t provide a right to trespass and damage property.

She insinuated the map threatened to criminalize innocent homeless people. She failed to mention the map listed actual crimes. If our map is unconstitutional, then so are police crime maps.

She further warned we could run afoul of medical privacy laws. She should know reporting a mentally ill man screaming epithets at people in a mall is not a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act violation.

We have great deference for the constitutional rights of the homeless. People also have the right to prevent their neighborhoods from being turned into trash dumps and toilets.

Mateo Caballero, Hawaii ACLU’s director, expressed concern the map could dehumanize the homeless, and encourage some people to target them. 

We would never have published the map if we thought that was a realistic possibility. Mr. Caballero should also know we’re not enemies of the American Civil Liberties Union. In fact, we list the ACLU as a homeless service on our website.

Arguing over a map is a waste of time. We should break out of our ideological bubbles and work together to end the homeless crisis.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.com.

About the Author

Show Comments

Featured Video

Civil Cafe: Patsy Mink And Title IX Panel Discussion