As Waikiki moves homeless out of tourist zones, some fear perpetual displacement

The homeless population has dropped by 83% over the past two years since a sit-lie ban went into effect, but some in Hawaii fear enforcement has gone too far

Aguirre Dick to benefit from spend the night in the street and parks of Waikiki, the pearl of Hawaiis tourism industry. But now, every evening, the homeless man must ride his bike three miles from the beach neighborhood and ascend the cinder slopes of a volcano to sleep or risk arrest.

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The homeless population in Waikiki has dropped by 83% over the past two years, according to a local nonprofit that offer homeless services in the area. While many have been housed, others say they have simply been pushed out, with unwanted implications for the rest of Honolulu.

A2 014 law stimulated it illegal to sit or lie on public sidewalks in Waikiki, a move championed by a worried tourism industry. Visitors to the islands must reconcile their idea of a Pacific idyll with the highest per-capita rate of homelessness of any US state, and until recently the prime example was Waikiki.

But as other neighborhoods seek tocopy Waikikis example, critics are concerned that homeless people could be forced into a state of perpetual displacement.

The police told me get out of Waikiki, but they keep moving us around, Dick said earlier this month. He was worried by rumors that police would move him on from his new sleeping place along the Diamond Head volcanic crater. Theyre are seeking to bury us.

Waikiki is renowned for its pellucid water, high rises and luxury storefronts.According to recent data, the mile-long seaside stretch accounted for $7.3 bn in tourism revenue in 2015, or 42% of Hawaiis total tourism spending statewide. It is also responsible, based on 2010 numbers, for more than 30,000 local chores.

But homelessness in Waikiki was the number one complaint among tourists before the sit-lie forbidding, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority president, George Szigeti. The sit-lie banning was needed in Waikiki, Szigeti said, praising it for virtually eliminating homelessness in most high-traffic areas.

A homeless persons belongings lie on the beach awaiting removal after a sweep cleaned out encampments along the waterside. Photograph: Liz Barney for the Guardian

If the tourism industry werent our number 1 industry itd be one thing to argue its not a priority, but its a priority, said Mufi Hannemann, president of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association. As we make improvements in this area it helps the whole state of Hawaii.

Honolulus mayor, Kirk Caldwell, has referred to these statutes as a form of compassionate interruption, arguing they encourage resistant people to accept the assistance of shelters. The laws were implemented concurrently with a$ 2m outreach program specific to Waikiki, over half of which was funded by donations from the hotel industry and private donors .

Certain housing was prioritized for people from the Waikiki area, and hotel security and police were encouraged to refer someones to outreach employees before initiating legal action.

According to a spokesperson at the Institute for Human Service, a nonprofit that operates the Waikiki outreach program, 288 people were permanently housed over the past two years, many of whom had previously declined help. And more than 200 someones were flown back to the mainland through a repatriation program that offered partial airfare assistance for mainland grafts with verified are projected to reconnect with family members. In total, more than 60% of the homeless people detected by Waikiki social workers were connected with housing options.

But some dread enforcement has gone too far. Honolulu police have issued nearly 2,800 warns and about 590 citations in Waikiki sincethe sit-lie bill went into effect in 2014, city spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke reported last month. A recent survey of 88 US cities with sit-lie bannings by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty singled out Honolulu for its aggressive enforcement of sidewalk laws.

Criminalizing behaviours associated with homelessness is counterproductive, alerted Matthew Doherty, executive director of United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates the federal have responded to homelessness. Rather than cycling people in and out of incarcerates, or from one street to another, we need to focus on creating pathways for people to exit homelessness.

They make it easier to go to jail than to get off the street, said Tommy Childes, sipping vodka from a plastic McDonalds cup. Childes, 48, said he is a veteran struggling with post-traumatic stress ailment. He was recently arrested for being within park bounds five minutes after closing hours and said he has been arrested dozens of days for similar violations.

And not everybody feels they should have to leave. They put pressure on us to go somewhere else, but I get more right to be here than any tourist, argued Richard Gambino, 66, who has lived on the streets for seven years and said the law unfairly favors tourists.

Others have moved on to other neighborhoods a major concern for Mateo Caballero, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii. He is worried that without enough affordable housing, the law simply displaces people, pushing them farther away from much-needed services and resources and into places without the same various kinds of specialized outreach as Waikiki. If the end goal is to reduce homelessness, its truly not working, Caballero said.

Aguirre Dick prepares to ride his bicycle to Diamond Head crater, where he now sleeps after strict laws forced him off the street. Photo: Liz Barney for the Guardian

Honolulu currently has sit-lie forbids in 15 neighborhoods in addition to Waikiki and, thanks to lobbying by businesses, there may be more. The city also conducts routine sweeps of camps and belongings to enforce a statute against storing personal estate on public land.

In a seemingly never-ending game of ping-pong, sweeps shift homeless communities back and forth between neighborhoods. In Hawaii Kai, an affluent neighborhood of million-dollar marina homes to the east of Honolulu, residents have formed their own taskforce to address the arrival of a new population of homeless people, which the director of the group has attributed to recent sweeps in other neighborhoods. The group is advocating for legal campgrounds for the homeless away from Hawaii Kai.

As officials field complaints concerning disgruntled residents across the island, the city continues to add to the listing of neighborhoods are planned for sweeps.

Last Friday, workers swept belongings from the sides of Diamond Head crater encampments into garbage trucks. Law enforcement officers watched to ensure homeless individuals remained outside the encampment, and away from Waikiki.

High on the slopes, empty dirt patches marked former campsites. Dick, the man who said he trekked up here every night to sleep, was nowhere to be found.

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