When it comes to the treatment of homeless people, Honolulu has been named one of the top ten “meanest cities” and the state of Hawaii named the third “meanest state,” according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. In its 2004 “Illegal to be Homeless” report, released today, the coalition cited overcrowded shelters, harsh park policies, and a May 2004 Hawaii law it says makes it “illegal to live on public property.” Honolulu has gotten relatively poor marks every year since the annual survey debuted in 2002.
This year, Honolulu ranked ninth (of 179 communities surveyed), betwen eighth-ranked San Francisco and tenth-ranked Austin, Texas. Little Rock, Ark. was named the nation’s meanest city. Honolulu was ranked 19th in 2003 (of 140 surveyed), and one of the 12 “meanest cities” (of 80 surveyed) in 2002.
At the state level, Hawaii came in third, nicer than California and Florida but meaner than Texas.
According to the report: “At the end of May 2004, the State of Hawaii adopted one of the nationâ€™s severest penalties to discourage people from living on public property. Act 50, which relates to criminal trespassing, charges an individual with criminal trespass in the second degree if the person enters or remains on public property after receiving a written request to leave.”
The coalition notes that the measure’s author, state Sen. Robert Bunda, said the law was created to address squatters living on Mokuleia beach, but it applies statewide.
The report also cites Honolulu for letting its homeless shelters to overflow into parks, installing barbed wire under highway bridges, and allowing state park maintenance workers to confiscate the belongings of homeless people.
At a Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii conference earlier this year, Gov. Linda Lingle addressed the homeless issue.
“The strong economy has not touched everyone equally,” Lingle said, according to a Pacific Business News report. She went on to assert that affordable housing is one of the most needed avenues to relief.
“We’ve come dangerously close to accepting the homeless as a problem that we just can’t solve,” she added, “We need to face this.”