Relating to the regulation of the poor and unwashed

Gary Hooser

The Hooser Analysis
with Gary Hooser

The actual title of a recently approved City and County of Honolulu ordinance is “Relating To The Regulation of Sidewalks.” But the intent is clear: How do we pass a law that keeps homeless people from getting in our way?

What the “Regulation of Sidewalks” law is really saying to the poor and houseless is simply, “Get out of my way or I will call a cop who will fine you $50 ... unless of course you can prove you are mentally ill in which case you are exempt.” 

How Catch-22 bizarre is that? We fine some hapless poor homeless person $50 for blocking a sidewalk and then exempt them if they can prove mental illness.

While perhaps well intended, this proposal is as ludicrous, mean-spirited, and Orwellian as the “ban the shopping carts in the parks” law that precedes it.

How far will we go to ensure that we don’t have to even look at the homeless in our community who exist in a world most of us can not even imagine?

We have already proven our willingness to take away their shopping carts and everything they own in the entire world, to make sure they stay out of our parks. Now we want to make sure they stay out of our doorways and sidewalks. What’s next, another ordinance for alleyways, shopping centers, and parking lots?

Why don’t we just draft an ordinance that bans poor people from being within 20 feet of a non-poor person?

Why don’t we just draft an ordinance that bans poor people from being within 20 feet of a non-poor person? We can call it the Get Out Of My Way, or better yet the GOOMFW, ordinance. That should do it. As we non-poor people move about the city, the lowest of the low can just GOOMFW when we approach. Like the parting of the Red Sea, this new ordinance would insure that the genteel among us can stroll unimpeded through-out the city without having to step around some lump of unwashed humanity crouched under cardboard in a doorway or on the side walk.

We can do better than this. This is Hawaii, land of aloha. Remember?

Before we go any further down the path of banning the poor and the homeless from our parks and our sidewalks, we need to make sure they have someplace to go—someplace legal, safe, and preferably dry.

We need “Housing First.” We need safe zones where the homeless can safely congregate. We need increased mental health services, job training, and much more affordable housing. And most of all, we need to remember that the homeless are part of our extended ohana and an incontrovertible reflection of who we are as a community.

Gary Hooser is the former State Senate Majority Leader and has represented Kauai and Niihau since 2002. Hooser recently ran for the office of Lieutenant Governor in Hawaii’s 2010 Democratic Party primary election.