A Hawaii Senate committee is considering a proposal that would allow homeless residents to vacate convictions for sitting or lying on public sidewalks.

The measure is one of 20 bills that the Senate Committee on Human Services and Housing plans to consider at a 1:15 p.m. hearing at the Hawaii State Capitol on Saturday, Jan. 31.

Hawaii has the highest rate of homelessness in the nation and is also one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. to buy or rent a home.

Tents line the sidewalks at Olomehani  Street near Waterfront Park in Kakaako.  30dec2014 . photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Tents line the sidewalks at Olomehani Street near Waterfront Park in Kakaako.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Honolulu City Council and Mayor Kirk Caldwell recently approved bans on sitting and lying on sidewalks in certain areas of the city, but advocates for homeless people argue that the measures are cruel and criminalize homelessness.

Senate Bill 269 would allow residents to petition the court to vacate a conviction for the offense if they were homeless at the time.

Other proposals that will be considered Saturday include:

  • Senate Bills 906 and 916, which would amend the process by which residents oppose projects in state redevelopment districts like Kakaako and require developers there to build less expensive residential units.
  • Senate Bill 392, which would increase a tax credit for low-income renters. Another measure, Senate Bill 902, is an omnibus bill intended to provide more tax relief for low-income people in general.
  • Senate Bill 1014, which would create a “Houseless Bill of Rights.”

Several more proposals set aside more money to build more low-income housing. Click here for the hearing notice that includes a full list of the bills lawmakers plan to take up.

About the Author