Every morning Georgette Preston wake ups on the sidewalk outside of the McCully-Moiliili Public Library, packs up her things and moves a block away to Old Stadium State Park, which opens at 5 a.m. and closes at 10 p.m.

Some of the homeless people who live near Preston at the corner of King Street and Makahiki Way keep their tents up throughout the day, but she doesn’t want to get in the way of library patrons.

“I have grandkids,” she said. “If they couldn’t use the library because somebody’s tent was up … I would be extremely upset.”

Still, she remains ambivalent about City Council Bill 83 that would prohibit sitting or lying on public sidewalks within 800 feet of a school or a public library from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

 

Many homeless people who live around Old Stadium Park in Moiliili call Georgette Preston “mom” because she routinely mitigates conflicts at the park.

Natanya Friedheim/ Civil Beat

It’s the latest in a series of measures to extend the city’s sit-lie ban since it was originally implemented in Waikiki in 2014.

“I deeply feel they’re criminalizing (homelessness),” Preston said.

On Wednesday, the council delayed a final vote on the measure. Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who introduced it, asked that it be returned to the Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee for further discussion.

Kobayashi said the city’s Department of Corporation Counsel had concerns that the expansion of the sit-lie ban might not hold up to legal challenges.

Mateo Caballero, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, submitted testimony opposing the bill.

Caballero cited a lawsuit in which the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals deemed a citywide ban in Los Angeles unconstitutional because the city did not provide sufficient shelter beds for the homeless population.

To see how the sit-lie ban has gradually expanded, click on the icon at the top left of the map below.

Kobayashi said she plans to meet with lawyers from the Corporation Counsel, as well as officials from the Hawaii State Public Library System and the Hawaii Department of Education, “to see how we can resolve this.”

Officials from the library system and the DOE have testified in support of Kobayashi’s bill.  

In June, Mayor Kirk Caldwell vetoed a measure Kobayashi introduced that would have expanded the sit-lie ban specifically along Makahiki Way due to concerns over legal challenges.

The council did pass Bill 99 on Wednesday, which prohibits people from lying down around bus stops.

Preston said living on the street requires her to constantly acclimate to new laws that affect homeless people in Honolulu.

She spends much of her day keeping an eye on her and other homeless people’s possessions in the park.

She regularly checks ACLU Hawaii’s Twitter feed, where the organization publishes the date, time and place where city crews are scheduled to conduct sweeps to move homeless people out.

Thanks to one tweet, Preston knew to stay up from 1 to 5 a.m. Wednesday to moved her things from the park to the sidewalk as crews removed possessions that remained in the park.  

“We stay up all night trying to protect what we do have,” she said.

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