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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 2, 2010

Cart ban just a brief respite for parkgoers

 •  Ban on tents, shopping carts in parks across Oahu signed into law


By Lee Cataluna

What about the rolling suitcases?

The city's new law banning shopping carts and tents in city parks is yet another half-measure to address a growing problem an attempt that is doomed to fail. It is better than doing nothing, though, because if it seemed like nobody was willing to take action to curb the homeless villages, they would spread from one end of Waikīkī to the other. But even as the bill was signed by the mayor this week and supporters on the City Council were congratulating themselves, nobody was up to pretending that this was going to get the homeless campers out of Waikīkī. The problem is trying to make rules for people who just aren't rule-followers.

The sprawling tent communities that have taken over formerly lovely public areas in and around Waikīkī's Kapi'olani Park have grown to shocking proportions. Tents, shopping carts, pets, bicycles, mounds of clothing stuffed into black trash bags are not tucked away by the bushes anymore. It's all out for the tourists and park users to see. Every time there's news about another attempt to take back the park for the public, there's a line in the story about how space is available in homeless shelters and an accompanying quote from a homeless person who refuses to live by shelter rules.

As we have seen, homeless campers are a wily and determined lot. Pass a rule that they can't sleep in a park overnight and they'll switch their sleeping schedules to sleep all day. Tell them they can't sleep on the lawn and they'll move their gear to the sidewalk. Make sleeping on the sidewalk illegal and they'll set up quarters on the 2-foot strip of grass between the sidewalk and the road.

Who knows what ingenious ways they'll work around the no-shopping-cart law? What else besides shopping carts is plentiful in the community, can hold stuff and rolls blue recycling bins? (Oh, stop now with the hate mail. I didn't just give anybody an idea they wouldn't have come up with on their own. And I'm sure those resourceful folks will think of something much more maneuverable than a rolling trash can.)

No tents? No problem! They'll weave shelters out of palm fronds, turn parking garages into camp sites, dig comfy warrens into the side of Diamond Head. Many will work hard to keep living in the park.

Among Honolulu's homeless there are hard-luck stories of people who are victims of the worst economic disaster this country has seen in decades. But those people use their energy and intellect to find ways to get up and out, not to stay put in the park and to make a tent out of chewing gum and plate-lunch containers.