Homelessness has put Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell in an unenviable bind.
He says it’s important to empathize with and support those who are living on the streets by providing them with stable housing.
At the same time, he understands that as mayor he must respond to community angst over an increasingly visible crisis by clearing out the homeless from parks and sidewalks.
Lately, he’s been pushing for stricter enforcement of city laws, which has led to the arrest of dozens of homeless people and raised questions about where his priorities lie. And on Sunday Caldwell announced it’s time to be even tougher.
In an op-ed in the state’s largest newspaper, the mayor declared a “war on homelessness” and proposed enacting even more rules that will allow the city to use police force against those living on the streets.
“We cannot let the homeless ruin our economy and take over our city,” Caldwell wrote.
He said the new laws he’s pushing — one that prohibits sitting and lying on sidewalks and another related to public urination and defecation — will be focused on Waikiki, which is the state’s biggest economic driver.
But he also made a pitch for more funding to help him eradicate homelessness by putting some of the most difficult people to house into shelters.
“It is pointless to keep shuffling the homeless from one place to another if they don’t have a place to go,” Caldwell wrote. “We can better manage our homeless challenge in a humane and effective way, but it requires everyone’s efforts, and it requires taking action now.”
While his stance receives praise from many, some skeptics believe Caldwell’s latest tactics …