Saturday, Dec. 02, 2023|
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The vandalism in our parks is staggering. But homeless sweeps, which evict innocent people along with the vandals, have grim consequences.
Remember the homeless woman stabbed to death at Mokupapapa in Hilo? And the two homeless men who died the same way in Kona after their encampment was swept?
Sweeps destroy the bit of safety encampments provide. And the people who dump garbage, needles and feces don’t stop doing so — they just dump it elsewhere.
At the May sweep in Kona, contrary to county claims, few service providers were forewarned. Shelter beds were available — but almost all in Hilo, and with many strings attached. Storage was offered, but it’s not helpful to have bedding and other essentials miles away in places only open during business hours.
After a sweep, service providers often cannot find people to help them navigate the complex road to housing, and homeless people, understandably, lose their trust in anyone official.
Though the effect of county policies is unclear, under this administration homelessness has increased 25%, we had an affordable housing scandal, encampments have been swept three times, and tiny homes are sitting unused near the NAS pool and transfer station.
Those who know homelessness — service providers and those with lived experience — say sweeps are harmful. Those who know the law — the ACLU — say they’re illegal.
Instead of comparing sweeps to chasing Girl Scouts out of parks (hello! the girls have somewhere to go) the county administration should set up a task force on housing solutions and conduct an audit to ensure county and private efforts to address homelessness are well-chosen, coordinated and successful.
Martha “Cory” Harden
Sweeps don’t work
In light of the recent homeless encampment sweeps which took place at Hale Halawai Beach Park and around the old airport in Kona, I would like to address the inefficiency of these sweeps. The sweeps are ineffective in addressing homelessness as they do not solve root problems. Instead, they should be replaced with long-term solutions that focus on stability and support for homeless individuals.
Homeless encampment sweeps typically do not provide adequate alternative housing options for those displaced.
The ACLU of Hawaii stated that “there were no emergency homeless shelter vacancies on the Kona side of the island” during the sweeps that occurred. Removing people from their encampments without offering them a safe and stable place to go perpetuates the cycle of homelessness and can lead to individuals relocating to even more unsafe and hidden locations.
According to the 2023 report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, for every 10,000 people, 121.2 people are Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. They are 10 times as likely as whites and 30 times as likely as Asians to experience homelessness. Hawaiians make up approximately half of Hawaii’s homeless population, despite only being 20% of the total population in this state.
Ultimately, sweeps are temporary solutions that fail to focus on the main causes of the issue, such as lack of affordable housing, mental health challenges and economic inequality. The county should focus their resources toward more compassionate solutions.
I encourage others to talk about Hawaii’s homelessness crisis and how we can help.
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