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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, July 30, 2004

Down and out on the island of O'ahu

By Chris Damitio

I'm grumpy right now. I didn't get to sleep very long last night. I was roused by the police at 3:30 a.m. and told that it is illegal to sleep in my car. The officers were nice, but it's no fun to be woken up with spotlights shining in your face and a demand for identification.

I complied with the officers. They told me that sleeping in your car is illegal from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and that I should leave Waikiki immediately. I did.

I am confused by this law. Don't get me wrong. I would prefer not to sleep in my car. I'd like to be living in an apartment or a house. My circumstances at the moment, however, leave me with two options. I can sleep in my car or I can sleep outside. To me the choice seemed logical.

I'm not sure now.

I was parked in a legal spot. I wasn't doing anyone any harm. I was sleeping. I was going to wake up at 6:30 and go running. I played tennis last night. I was tired after three hours of play!

Maybe being healthy doesn't fit with the typical image of a homeless person. Let me define that ...

"Typical homeless = drugged-out, drunk, dirty, non-working, crazy, bum."

That's not me.

I take great pains to maintain a clean and pleasant appearance. I work. In fact, I worked for Donald Trump's show "The Apprentice" recently and for "The Search for America's Next Top Model" a few weeks ago. No one there knew I was homeless. Although, I admit, I probably look more homeless when the police wake me at 3:30 a.m.

I'm a writer. I wanted to complete my novel "Slackville Road" and I couldn't do it working 70 hours a week. So I made some adjustments to my lifestyle. Now you can find me working on my novel on my laptop in the public libraries. They're not open from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Not much is.

I'm confused about why it is illegal to sleep in my car in a legal parking spot. I'm confused why the spirit of aloha doesn't extend to people who are adequate-shelter deprived. I'm confused that our society wants to "handle" the homeless because of the economic impact they have on business and industry.

What about helping people out? How about making these Islands affordable for the people who live here all the time? What about jobs that offer enough pay to cover living?


Chris Damitio is homeless and is a writer. He's worked in TV production and is the author of the book "Rough Living," available at www.roughliving.com.