Honolulu’s “sit-lie” ban and other ordinances underpinning Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s “compassionate disruption” program are doing little to curb homelessness in the city, according to a University of Hawaii study being released Monday.
Instead, the study found, an array of ordinances aimed at clearing the city’s sidewalks has further complicated the lives of many homeless people by causing “economic and property loss,” as well as “physical and psychological harm.”
The study was co-authored by Tai Dunson-Strane and Sarah Soakai, two graduate students in the university’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning.
Homeless residents’ tents line the muddy bank of Kapalama Canal between King Street and Killingham Boulevard.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Their findings, based on a survey conducted in February and March with 70 homeless individuals at encampments in Aala Park, Kakaako and along Kapalama Canal, show that Caldwell’s program has not had its intended effect of prodding the homeless to emergency shelters where they can receive needed services.
A third of the survey respondents said they were less likely to move to a shelter after being cited for violating the city’s sit-lie ordinance, which bans people from sitting or lying on public sidewalks in designated business districts.
Another 61 percent said the sit-lie citations had no effect on the likelihood that they go to a shelter.
The findings come less than two weeks after the Honolulu City Council overrode Caldwell’s veto of Bill 6, a measure that expands the sit-lie ban’s boundary to include portions of McCully, Aala and Punchbowl, as well as the area along the Kapalama Canal.
The study also found that the enforcement of “stored property” and “sidewalk nuisance” ordinances similarly led to dismal results.
About one-fifth of the survey respondents said they were less likely to move to a shelter after being subjected to enforcement actions conducted by the city’s Department of Facility Maintenance.
Another 68 percent said the sweeps had no effect on the likelihood that they would go to a shelter.
But the sweeps have caused plenty of disruption.
More than a half, or 57 percent, of the survey respondents said they’ve had their identification documents confiscated during the sweeps, and only 16 percent of them managed to retrieve them later. That’s because the $200 cost for retrieval was prohibitive for most, and they weren’t informed about how to obtain a fee waiver, the study found.
Dunson-Strane and Soakai wrote that the takeaway from their findings is that there’s a need to “holistically address the problem of homelessness in Hawaii.”
“The overwhelmingly harmful effects of current city sweeps and sit-lie policies on vulnerable houseless individuals and families in Hawaii are a travesty of justice,” they wrote. “The problem of houselessness will not be solved through punitive policies that increase harm to this population.”
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