Fil-Am politician seeks answers for Hawaii's homeless

By Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Jun 26 2015 07:24 PM | Updated as of Jun 27 2015 03:24 AM

KALIHI, Hawaii – The Honolulu City Council recently voted to override Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s veto and enact its recent bill that aims to expand the city’s efforts to deal with its homeless problem.

The island of Oahu is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the United States. However, according to the Department of Tourism, the rise in the homeless population has begun to have a negative effect on visitors.

The sit-lie ban law prohibits reclining on sidewalks in commercial parts of Waikiki which has prompted most of the homeless to move out of the popular tourist areas and settle in other communities.

"The frontline of this homeless issue is in my district and it seems to be that if it’s not the worst homeless problem in the nation, that I would say it is up there as one of the worst,” said Honolulu City Council member and Filipino American Joey Manahan.

Manahan said the mayor vetoed the expansion bill because he did not want to jeopardize current city laws that ban sitting and lying down in popular tourist spots on Oahu.

Manahan said that the mayor did not consider the effect the homeless are having in other parts of the island.

He said that his district, which is home to many Filipinos, has become a campground for the homeless.

A tent city of about 125 people has formed along the Kapalama Canal.

“There’s also a lot of activity with the folks that are living here – drug activity, illegal stuff. I felt it was important to have that law here, similar to that of Waikiki,” said Manahan.

Students at nearby Honolulu Community College stress how they feel unsafe when they park their vehicles near the tent city.

Manahan said that the city spends $15,000 a week on clearing these tent cities only for the homeless to return hours later.

“Technically, it’s illegal but because we don’t have enough shelters for people then I guess the enforcement seems to be more relaxed until we get proper shelter and housing in place,” said Manahan.

Manahan and other council members hope to acquire a large facility owned by fashion retailer “Hilo Hattie” and turn it into a shelter and service center for the homeless.

“Right now they’re going through bankruptcy proceedings and the city is putting in a bid for the establishment for the building and hopefully if we win we could have it in a few months,” said Manahan.

Community members, especially the students at Honolulu Community College and the University of Hawaii, hope to see an end to the problem hopefully before the beginning of the fall semester in order to avoid further confrontations with the unsheltered population.

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