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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dancing around the H-word

The City Council is moving yet again to try to outsmart the squatters who are turning Honolulu's parks into tent-and-tarp cities.

Now, if only we could feel sure they've got the guts to make the tougher rules stick. During last week's discussion of the proposed bans on unpermitted tents and shopping carts, everyone seemed to be dancing around the H-word.

Homeless. The people that nobody wants to be seen as targeting.

Except that Bills 7 and 8 do target the homeless, and that's perfectly fine.

Call them homeless, houseless, campers, squatters or opportunists, their takeover of public parks and bathrooms grows more brazen by the week.

In Waikīkī, the problem is even more troubling. Parks and beaches that were once clean and inviting are a turnoff, filled with tents, bikes, carts and sleeping folks sprawled on benches.

This is an intolerable situation, and it mainly falls on city officials to fix it.

Despite the availability of space at existing shelters, it's clear that many of the most determined campers have no interest in coming in from the warm.

So in addition to going after tents and carts, Mayor Mufi Hannemann should consider creating a secure, open space for the homeless to set up their tents. Other municipalities have done so successfully.

But until that happens, the homeless need to be steered toward shelters, where there are social workers available to help. Police officers have to increase the pressure so that illicit camping and storing of personal goods on public property becomes untenable.

Tiptoeing around the real issue is not going to bring relief. This city needs its elected leaders to get a grip and put an end to the illegal use of public land.