Posted tagged ‘APEC’

Homeless plan or security sweep?

June 7, 2011

Stories in the local media about Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s 90-day homeless plan have mentioned the timing in relation to the November APEC conference, but have allowed for the possibility of loftier goals than removing the homeless from the view plane of Barack Obama and other world leaders.

Not so most of the stories circulating in the mainland media. The AP story that ran in the Washington Post and other major media laid the homelessness initiative directly at the doorstep of APEC:

HONOLULU — The laid-back tropical paradise seen in postcards and tourists’ photos of Hawaii has a less pleasant flipside: homeless people sleeping in tents near Waikiki Beach, men splayed out next to public bathrooms, drug addicts and drunks loitering at an oceanside park.

With President Barack Obama hosting a major Asia-Pacific economic summit in Honolulu in November — one that will draw dozens of heads of state and focus international attention on the tourist mecca — state leaders have begun pressing for solutions to solve a homelessness problem that’s as deeply entrenched in Hawaii as nearly anywhere in the country.

Abercrombie was quoted as saying it’s a “happy coincidence” that the plan will move many of the homeless out of Waikiki and the main city corridor before APEC.

Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz mentioned a moral obligation to help the homeless, but admitted APEC is a “handy deadline” to show some progress.

Mayor Peter Carlisle said the added police and security forces for the conference will be keeping a special eye on the homeless.

“Some of them are violent, some of them are mentally ill, some are so intoxicated you can’t roust ‘em,” he said. “And that’s something we simply just can’t tolerate during this particular period of time.”

The question is whether it’s motivation that really matters or results.

If the homeless are moved only temporarily out of Waikiki and the central city — or pushed to other locations where they’re just a problem for someone else — the program will be a disgrace by any measure.

But if the sweep finds actual solutions and services for a fair number of homeless and gets them into better situations for themselves and the community, do we really care what motivated the timing?

A homeless solution or just another shuffle?

May 19, 2011

When former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann cleared the homeless out of Ala Moana Park during an extended series of torrential rains, it left a bad taste with many because of his perceived motive of getting them out of sight before his family festival at Magic Island.

The 90-day homelessness plan announced by Gov. Neil Abercrombie and his homelessness coordinator Marc Alexander seems to be drawing the same reaction in some quarters for similar reasons.

Because of its timing and strict focus on the Honolulu urban core, there’s a perception that the main motive is to get the homeless out of sight — especially in Waikiki — so they don’t sully the state’s image during the APEC meetings in November that will bring President Barack Obama, 20 other world leaders and 20,000 participants in all to Honolulu.

There are significant differences between the two situations; Hannemann made little provision to care for those he evicted while the current state effort includes ambitious plans to find shelter and treatment for the homeless being  cleared out.

The state’s plan seeks to zero in on the chronically homeless who have been on the streets for years, often have mental disorders or drug addictions and have been known to refuse help that inhibits their freedom to do as they please.

The governor threw down the gauntlet when he said, “We intend to see to it that public space stays public. Public space is not there for private use.”

If he and Alexander do it by more effectively coordinating services and finally finding ways to get these people some real help, they’ll earn major plaudits for contributing to a better Hawai‘i.

If they do it by just shuffling the hardcore homeless out of sight so the APEC muck-a-mucks don’t see our warts, they’ll have some explaining to do.


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