[Hpn] Homeless Advocates Say Homeless Should Sleep Where They Want

William Charles Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Wed, 29 Mar 2006 02:36:50 -0500


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http://www.hawaiireporter.com/story.aspx?312c075e-4385-44cf-a7ec-1279d12e=
67aa

City 'Takes Back Crown Jewel' from Homeless Squatters

Homeless Advocates Say Homeless Should Sleep Where They Want; Economists =
Say Situation Will Only Get Worse Without Lower Taxes; Governor Holds =
Meeting With Homeless Advocates on Friday

By Malia Zimmerman, 3/28/2006
Many mornings at dawn, Honolulu resident Bobbie Slater swims at Ala =
Moana Beach Park to enjoy the beauty of the beach and sunrise while =
getting her daily exercise. Some mornings she takes her grandnephews, =
ages 5 and 6, so they can dig in the sand, swim in the ocean and play =
ball in the park. But about a year-and-a-half ago, Slater became a great =
deal more cautious about where she lets them play, because Ala Moana =
Beach Park was becoming noticeably dangerous and dirty.=20

Where there were once picnic tables and shady trees for families to sit =
and enjoy their favorite meals, were now more than 200 homeless people =
who moved their tents and tarps into the 119-acre park, including some =
homeless who now used the tables as beds.=20

Where her grandnephews used to climb on the large roots of the Banyan =
trees that span the park, were now big piles of human feces -- some =
wrapped in toilet paper, some not -- with the trees retaining an =
overwhelming stench of human defecation.=20

Where she used to play ball with her grandnephews, were now aggressive =
homeless people, some high on drugs or alcohol, who chased them away =
from where they had set up whole bedrooms with mattresses, dressers and =
even electricity running through extension cords from park facilities.=20

What once was considered one of Honolulu's crown jewels, was now a =
camping ground for the homeless where local taxpaying residents no =
longer felt safe, sanitary or welcome.=20

City Parks Director Les Chang announced Friday at a press conference, =
"We are taking back our parks," noting that the crime rate at the park =
-- and the number of people illegally camping there -- has spiked =
dramatically over the last year, despite enforcement by local police.=20

"The numbers of citations issued are huge, which shows that the police =
have not been tolerating illegal activity at Ala Moana Beach Park," city =
spokesman Bill Brennan told Hawaii Reporter. So far this year, the city =
issued 567 illegal campaign citations, 53 illegal camping arrests, 637 =
parking citations, and made 200 other arrests, for everything from =
illegal human habitation to abuse of a household member.=20

Sunday, March 26, the city ordered the park be closed from 10 p.m. to 4 =
a.m. over the next month, as sort of a test run, to see if the closure =
keeps the park cleaner and safer, and if it does, the city will consider =
retaining those park hours permanently. The city also will close the =
park from April 25 to April 27, so city crews from a variety of agencies =
can power wash and paint park facilities, repave and repaint the parking =
lots, and clean the trees.=20

Honolulu City Council Member Charles Djou says he agrees with the mayor =
on this issue. "While I completely understand the problem of =
homelessness, I also happen to believe that law-abiding, taxpaying =
citizens should be able to enjoy public facilities and parks like Ala =
Moana Beach Park without being frightened. "=20

But the city administration's move outraged the homeless in the park and =
homeless advocates, who say the homeless should be able to live where =
they choose. Holding signs that read "pay us a living wage" and other =
political statements as they left the park Sunday night, 10 or so =
homeless people camped out at City Hall, so they could bring their =
problems home to the mayor when he arrived at work in the morning.=20

Chang says the state is responsible for mitigating the homeless problem, =
and notes Gov. Linda Lingle is hosting a meeting with homeless advocates =
and social workers on Thursday to determine how to handle a problem that =
continues to worsen each year.=20

The mayor also announced late Tuesday that he'd make city property next =
to the Honolulu Police Station available so the homeless at city hall =
could move their camps and legally stay on city property - at least =
temporarily.=20

Governor Asks for More Funding from State, Federal Government to Counter =
Homeless Problem=20

So why are there more than 6,000 homeless in the state of Hawaii with =
the number increasing every day?=20

Experts break down the homeless population into many groups, including =
those who choose to be homeless because they do not want to work, those =
with substance abuse problems or a mental illness, and the working poor. =


There also is a group of homeless, which continues to grow each year, =
that is a population from what is called the The Compact of Free =
Association between the Federated States of Micronesia and the United =
States. The U.S. government made arrangements with the governments of =
Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the =
Marshall Islands in 1986, allowing their citizens to travel freely and =
reside in American Samoa, Hawaii and Guam. The last Census in 2003 shows =
an increase of 35 percent from the previous 6 years in terms of migrants =
from these areas to Hawaii or a total of 7,300 a year, including many =
who arrive without any family, home, job or the ability to speak =
English.=20

Linda Smith, senior policy advisor to Gov. Linda Lingle, says the $10.5 =
million of the $30 million that Hawaii receives to accommodate this =
population is not enough. "Hawaii has provided an estimated $25 million =
in services to this group," Smith says.=20

Lingle has twice asked the federal government to reassess Hawaii's =
situation, noting the Census contains outdated information and has been =
turned down once, with her second request still pending.=20

The Institute for Human Services -- a non-profit agency that helps =
several homeless families and individuals through their shelters in =
Kalihi -- has been hit hard financially by this Compact for Free =
Association migration. The Institute of Human Services, which does not =
and cannot discriminate against non-residents, has taken in many =
families from Micronesia, allowing them to take advantage of the on-site =
health care, free meals and parenting classes. The shelter, which houses =
around 25 families including 60 children, and 60 single women, for an =
average of 200 days, has a stunning 70 percent from Micronesia, =
including many who do not speak English.=20

There are at least 50 more homeless families waiting for a place in the =
shelter, Lynn Maunakea told Hawaii Reporter before she resigned her =
position as executive director on March 1. Approximately 20 additional =
women crowd into the shelter's garage at night, where they feel they are =
safer than on the streets. Between 350 to 400 men stay at the men's =
shelter nearby, including many who have substance abuse problems.=20

Maunakea says being in the shelter gives the homeless an opportunity to =
save money for a rental down payment. When it is time to move on, the =
Institute helps them transition. The shelter is only a temporary fix for =
some, Maunakea says, noting the state needs an estimated 17,000 =
additional affordable housing units in the next 5 years.=20

Economists interviewed for this story say because Hawaii's immigrant =
population is increasing, combined with Hawaii's highest cost of living =
in the nation, the highest overall tax burden in the nation, and =
rocketing price of real estate and rental properties, a growing =
percentage of the population are poor. Even with two parents working =
multiple jobs, many families cannot make enough money to feed their =
families and pay rent or a mortgage.=20

Although Hawaii lawmakers are considering a bill that provides $20 =
million in funding for the governor to help the homeless, the majority =
leaders in the House have refused tax relief proposals to help people =
who might be on the verge of becoming homeless. House Speaker Calvin Say =
has refused to consider allowing half of the state's $600 million =
surplus to be returned to the taxpayers, as the governor proposed in =
order to bring relief to the low and middle income residents.=20

The governor also has pointed to a recent national study that rates =
Hawaii as one of the meanest in the nation in terms of how it treats its =
poor, noting people in poverty are taxed beginning at $11,000 of income. =
She says wants to raise the income bracket, so people are taxed after a =
higher income, but so far her proposals have not been passed.=20

Poverty Takes Its Toll on Local Non-Profits=20

Partnering is a big reason some local non-profits have been able to =
provide for so many needy in the community. For example, the =
Kalihi-Palama Health Center operates clinics at both Institute for Human =
Services shelters and the Hawaii Foodbank provides food at a substantial =
discount so staff can prepare 900 meals daily.=20

Dick Grimm, president of the Hawaii Foodbank, says the non-profit =
collects about 9 million pounds of food annually from supermarkets, =
distributors and wholesalers, and then distributes the food through 250 =
agencies to more than 118,000 different individuals each week on Oahu. =
The demographics of people seeking food donations has changed, Grimm =
says. Up until recently, there were many seniors on fixed incomes who =
needed food, but today agencies are seeing more young parents working in =
low-income jobs.=20

"The vast majority -- around 70 percent -- of our clientele are =
gainfully employed at low wage jobs, but have difficulty in making ends =
meet," Grimm says. Mike Prevost, the physical outreach coordinator for =
Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Honolulu, regularly purchases food =
at a substantial discount from the Hawaii Foodbank. Prevost, who spends =
much of his time soliciting corporate donations of food and goods, says =
Wal-Mart and Sam's Club have been particularly generous in Hawaii with =
Wal-Mart donating baked goods and other food from its stores four days a =
week. His church helps an estimated 400 people a month on site and =
another 600 people off premises. Prevost, who worked with the homeless =
and needy over the last decade, says there seem to be many more =
displaced families living in cars clustered along the beach or parks. =
Prevost says Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church used be allocated =
$60,000 annually in federal FEMA funds for rent assistance for the =
homeless or poor, but since the terrorist attack in 2001, and subsequent =
series of natural disasters, FEMA money has dried up. Several other =
Hawaii non-profits are in the same situation, he says. In fact, three =
non-profit organizations nearby are no longer distributing food because =
they are understaffed and undercapitalized -- a reality that is bringing =
more poor people through the doors of Sts. Peter and Paul.=20

The church is successful in getting private donations from parishioners, =
but much more assistance is needed, especially for families on the West =
side of Oahu. Besides food and money, Prevost is coordinating a campaign =
to collect grocery bags, clothing, toys, hotel-sized shampoos, soaps and =
amenities, and school supplies for students whose families are homeless. =


While there have been studies done and summits convened to review the =
problems surrounding homelessness in Hawaii, all involved in the issue =
agree there is no quick fix.=20

Maunakea says she believes the state needs to partner with developers to =
construct temporary shelters for homeless. At these shelters, the =
homeless could get access to services that will help them obtain jobs, =
raise their incomes, be tutored, receive financial counseling and get =
treatment for substance abuse addictions that might prevent them from =
functioning.=20

Slater, who looks forward to the day when Ala Moana Beach Park and many =
other public places across the state are cleaned up and returned to the =
taxpayers, says she sees three solutions to homelessness. Provide =
temporary shelter to those down on their luck so they can get back on =
their feet; hospitalize the substance abusers and mentally ill so they =
can be treated; and harass the others who refuse to work, and just want =
to take advantage of a free living situation at the community's expense. =


The situation at Ala Moana and elsewhere creates a huge health hazard, =
Slater says, noting there are human feces in the trees, people urinating =
openly in the ocean as swimmers go by, and people setting up whole =
bedrooms in the park.=20

"This is a terrible waste -- a terrible waste of their lives and =
terrible waste of our park," Slater says.=20

Reach Malia Zimmerman, editor and president of Hawaii Reporter, via =
email at mailto:Malia@hawaiireporter.com=20


=20



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<BODY bgColor=3D#ffffff>
<DIV><SPAN=20
style=3D"FONT-WEIGHT: bold; FONT-SIZE: 14pt; FONT-FAMILY: =
arial,helvetica"><A=20
href=3D"http://www.hawaiireporter.com/story.aspx?312c075e-4385-44cf-a7ec-=
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<DIV><SPAN=20
style=3D"FONT-WEIGHT: bold; FONT-SIZE: 14pt; FONT-FAMILY: =
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<DIV><SPAN=20
style=3D"FONT-WEIGHT: bold; FONT-SIZE: 14pt; FONT-FAMILY: =
arial,helvetica">City=20
'Takes Back Crown Jewel' from Homeless Squatters</SPAN></DIV><SPAN=20
style=3D"FONT-WEIGHT: bold; FONT-SIZE: 14pt; FONT-FAMILY: =
arial,helvetica"></SPAN><SPAN=20
style=3D"FONT-SIZE: 12pt; FONT-STYLE: italic; FONT-FAMILY: =
arial,helvetica">
<DIV><BR>Homeless Advocates Say Homeless Should Sleep Where They Want;=20
Economists Say Situation Will Only Get Worse Without Lower Taxes; =
Governor Holds=20
Meeting With Homeless Advocates on Friday</DIV>
<DIV></SPAN><SPAN><BR>By Malia Zimmerman, 3/28/2006</SPAN></DIV>
<P><SPAN style=3D"FONT-SIZE: 12pt; FONT-FAMILY: arial,helvetica">Many =
mornings at=20
dawn, Honolulu resident Bobbie Slater swims at Ala Moana Beach Park to =
enjoy the=20
beauty of the beach and sunrise while getting her daily exercise. Some =
mornings=20
she takes her grandnephews, ages 5 and 6, so they can dig in the sand, =
swim in=20
the ocean and play ball in the park. But about a year-and-a-half ago, =
Slater=20
became a great deal more cautious about where she lets them play, =
because Ala=20
Moana Beach Park was becoming noticeably dangerous and dirty.=20
<P>Where there were once picnic tables and shady trees for families to =
sit and=20
enjoy their favorite meals, were now more than 200 homeless people who =
moved=20
their tents and tarps into the 119-acre park, including some homeless =
who now=20
used the tables as beds.=20
<P>Where her grandnephews used to climb on the large roots of the Banyan =
trees=20
that span the park, were now big piles of human feces -- some wrapped in =
toilet=20
paper, some not -- with the trees retaining an overwhelming stench of =
human=20
defecation.=20
<P>Where she used to play ball with her grandnephews, were now =
aggressive=20
homeless people, some high on drugs or alcohol, who chased them away =
from where=20
they had set up whole bedrooms with mattresses, dressers and even =
electricity=20
running through extension cords from park facilities.=20
<P>What once was considered one of Honolulu=92s crown jewels, was now a =
camping=20
ground for the homeless where local taxpaying residents no longer felt =
safe,=20
sanitary or welcome.=20
<P>City Parks Director Les Chang announced Friday at a press conference, =
"We are=20
taking back our parks," noting that the crime rate at the park -- and =
the number=20
of people illegally camping there -- has spiked dramatically over the =
last year,=20
despite enforcement by local police.=20
<P>"The numbers of citations issued are huge, which shows that the =
police have=20
not been tolerating illegal activity at Ala Moana Beach Park," city =
spokesman=20
Bill Brennan told <I>Hawaii Reporter.</I> So far this year, the city =
issued 567=20
illegal campaign citations, 53 illegal camping arrests, 637 parking =
citations,=20
and made 200 other arrests, for everything from illegal human habitation =
to=20
abuse of a household member.=20
<P>Sunday, March 26, the city ordered the park be closed from 10 p.m. to =
4 a.m.=20
over the next month, as sort of a test run, to see if the closure keeps =
the park=20
cleaner and safer, and if it does, the city will consider retaining =
those park=20
hours permanently. The city also will close the park from April 25 to =
April 27,=20
so city crews from a variety of agencies can power wash and paint park=20
facilities, repave and repaint the parking lots, and clean the trees.=20
<P>Honolulu City Council Member Charles Djou says he agrees with the =
mayor on=20
this issue. "While I completely understand the problem of homelessness, =
I also=20
happen to believe that law-abiding, taxpaying citizens should be able to =
enjoy=20
public facilities and parks like Ala Moana Beach Park without being =
frightened.=20
"=20
<P>But the city administration=92s move outraged the homeless in the =
park and=20
homeless advocates, who say the homeless should be able to live where =
they=20
choose. Holding signs that read "pay us a living wage" and other =
political=20
statements as they left the park Sunday night, 10 or so homeless people =
camped=20
out at City Hall, so they could bring their problems home to the mayor =
when he=20
arrived at work in the morning.=20
<P>Chang says the state is responsible for mitigating the homeless =
problem, and=20
notes Gov. Linda Lingle is hosting a meeting with homeless advocates and =
social=20
workers on Thursday to determine how to handle a problem that continues =
to=20
worsen each year.=20
<P>The mayor also announced late Tuesday that he'd make city property =
next to=20
the Honolulu Police Station available so the homeless at city hall could =
move=20
their camps and legally stay on city property - at least temporarily.=20
<P><B>Governor Asks for More Funding from State, Federal Government to =
Counter=20
Homeless Problem</B>=20
<P>So why are there more than 6,000 homeless in the state of Hawaii with =
the=20
number increasing every day?=20
<P>Experts break down the homeless population into many groups, =
including those=20
who choose to be homeless because they do not want to work, those with =
substance=20
abuse problems or a mental illness, and the working poor.=20
<P>There also is a group of homeless, which continues to grow each year, =
that is=20
a population from what is called the The Compact of Free Association =
between the=20
Federated States of Micronesia and the United States. The U.S. =
government made=20
arrangements with the governments of Palau, the Federated States of =
Micronesia,=20
and the Republic of the Marshall Islands in 1986, allowing their =
citizens to=20
travel freely and reside in American Samoa, Hawaii and Guam. The last =
Census in=20
2003 shows an increase of 35 percent from the previous 6 years in terms =
of=20
migrants from these areas to Hawaii or a total of 7,300 a year, =
including many=20
who arrive without any family, home, job or the ability to speak =
English.=20
<P>Linda Smith, senior policy advisor to Gov. Linda Lingle, says the =
$10.5=20
million of the $30 million that Hawaii receives to accommodate this =
population=20
is not enough. "Hawaii has provided an estimated $25 million in services =
to this=20
group," Smith says.=20
<P>Lingle has twice asked the federal government to reassess Hawaii=92s =
situation,=20
noting the Census contains outdated information and has been turned down =
once,=20
with her second request still pending.=20
<P>The Institute for Human Services -- a non-profit agency that helps =
several=20
homeless families and individuals through their shelters in Kalihi -- =
has been=20
hit hard financially by this Compact for Free Association migration. The =

Institute of Human Services, which does not and cannot discriminate =
against=20
non-residents, has taken in many families from Micronesia, allowing them =
to take=20
advantage of the on-site health care, free meals and parenting classes. =
The=20
shelter, which houses around 25 families including 60 children, and 60 =
single=20
women, for an average of 200 days, has a stunning 70 percent from =
Micronesia,=20
including many who do not speak English.=20
<P>There are at least 50 more homeless families waiting for a place in =
the=20
shelter, Lynn Maunakea told <I>Hawaii Reporter</I> before she resigned =
her=20
position as executive director on March 1. Approximately 20 additional =
women=20
crowd into the shelter=92s garage at night, where they feel they are =
safer than on=20
the streets. Between 350 to 400 men stay at the men=92s shelter nearby, =
including=20
many who have substance abuse problems.=20
<P>Maunakea says being in the shelter gives the homeless an opportunity =
to save=20
money for a rental down payment. When it is time to move on, the =
Institute helps=20
them transition. The shelter is only a temporary fix for some, Maunakea =
says,=20
noting the state needs an estimated 17,000 additional affordable housing =
units=20
in the next 5 years.=20
<P>Economists interviewed for this story say because Hawaii=92s =
immigrant=20
population is increasing, combined with Hawaii=92s highest cost of =
living in the=20
nation, the highest overall tax burden in the nation, and rocketing =
price of=20
real estate and rental properties, a growing percentage of the =
population are=20
poor. Even with two parents working multiple jobs, many families cannot =
make=20
enough money to feed their families and pay rent or a mortgage.=20
<P>Although Hawaii lawmakers are considering a bill that provides $20 =
million in=20
funding for the governor to help the homeless, the majority leaders in =
the House=20
have refused tax relief proposals to help people who might be on the =
verge of=20
becoming homeless. House Speaker Calvin Say has refused to consider =
allowing=20
half of the state=92s $600 million surplus to be returned to the =
taxpayers, as the=20
governor proposed in order to bring relief to the low and middle income=20
residents.=20
<P>The governor also has pointed to a recent national study that rates =
Hawaii as=20
one of the meanest in the nation in terms of how it treats its poor, =
noting=20
people in poverty are taxed beginning at $11,000 of income. She says =
wants to=20
raise the income bracket, so people are taxed after a higher income, but =
so far=20
her proposals have not been passed.=20
<P><B>Poverty Takes Its Toll on Local Non-Profits</B>=20
<P>Partnering is a big reason some local non-profits have been able to =
provide=20
for so many needy in the community. For example, the Kalihi-Palama =
Health Center=20
operates clinics at both Institute for Human Services shelters and the =
Hawaii=20
Foodbank provides food at a substantial discount so staff can prepare =
900 meals=20
daily.=20
<P>Dick Grimm, president of the Hawaii Foodbank, says the non-profit =
collects=20
about 9 million pounds of food annually from supermarkets, distributors =
and=20
wholesalers, and then distributes the food through 250 agencies to more =
than=20
118,000 different individuals each week on Oahu. The demographics of =
people=20
seeking food donations has changed, Grimm says. Up until recently, there =
were=20
many seniors on fixed incomes who needed food, but today agencies are =
seeing=20
more young parents working in low-income jobs.=20
<P>"The vast majority -- around 70 percent -- of our clientele are =
gainfully=20
employed at low wage jobs, but have difficulty in making ends meet," =
Grimm says.=20
Mike Prevost, the physical outreach coordinator for Sts. Peter &amp; =
Paul=20
Catholic Church in Honolulu, regularly purchases food at a substantial =
discount=20
from the Hawaii Foodbank. Prevost, who spends much of his time =
soliciting=20
corporate donations of food and goods, says Wal-Mart and Sam=92s Club =
have been=20
particularly generous in Hawaii with Wal-Mart donating baked goods and =
other=20
food from its stores four days a week. His church helps an estimated 400 =
people=20
a month on site and another 600 people off premises. Prevost, who worked =
with=20
the homeless and needy over the last decade, says there seem to be many =
more=20
displaced families living in cars clustered along the beach or parks. =
Prevost=20
says Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church used be allocated $60,000 =
annually in=20
federal FEMA funds for rent assistance for the homeless or poor, but =
since the=20
terrorist attack in 2001, and subsequent series of natural disasters, =
FEMA money=20
has dried up. Several other Hawaii non-profits are in the same =
situation, he=20
says. In fact, three non-profit organizations nearby are no longer =
distributing=20
food because they are understaffed and undercapitalized -- a reality =
that is=20
bringing more poor people through the doors of Sts. Peter and Paul.=20
<P>The church is successful in getting private donations from =
parishioners, but=20
much more assistance is needed, especially for families on the West side =
of=20
Oahu. Besides food and money, Prevost is coordinating a campaign to =
collect=20
grocery bags, clothing, toys, hotel-sized shampoos, soaps and amenities, =
and=20
school supplies for students whose families are homeless.=20
<P>While there have been studies done and summits convened to review the =

problems surrounding homelessness in Hawaii, all involved in the issue =
agree=20
there is no quick fix.=20
<P>Maunakea says she believes the state needs to partner with developers =
to=20
construct temporary shelters for homeless. At these shelters, the =
homeless could=20
get access to services that will help them obtain jobs, raise their =
incomes, be=20
tutored, receive financial counseling and get treatment for substance =
abuse=20
addictions that might prevent them from functioning.=20
<P>Slater, who looks forward to the day when Ala Moana Beach Park and =
many other=20
public places across the state are cleaned up and returned to the =
taxpayers,=20
says she sees three solutions to homelessness. Provide temporary shelter =
to=20
those down on their luck so they can get back on their feet; hospitalize =
the=20
substance abusers and mentally ill so they can be treated; and harass =
the others=20
who refuse to work, and just want to take advantage of a free living =
situation=20
at the community=92s expense.=20
<P>The situation at Ala Moana and elsewhere creates a huge health =
hazard, Slater=20
says, noting there are human feces in the trees, people urinating openly =
in the=20
ocean as swimmers go by, and people setting up whole bedrooms in the =
park.=20
<P>"This is a terrible waste -- a terrible waste of their lives and =
terrible=20
waste of our park," Slater says.=20
<P><I>Reach Malia Zimmerman, editor and president of Hawaii Reporter, =
via email=20
at</I> <A href=3D"mailto:Malia@hawaiireporter.com"=20
target=3D_blank>mailto:Malia@hawaiireporter.com</A> </SPAN>
<P><BR>&nbsp;</P>

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