Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell unveiled a more aggressive strategy Wednesday for tackling the homeless problem, which includes moving as many as 440 homeless people into permanent housing in the next two years.
The housing initiative, supported by $47.2 million in funds recently approved by the Honolulu City Council, is being paired with two bills introduced by the mayor last week that would crack down on sleeping and camping out on Waikiki sidewalks and defecating and urinating on public property.
Caldwell announced his revamped homeless strategy at a press conference at the Waikiki Grass Shack Bistro in Kuhio Beach Park, which has become one of the battlegrounds in the city’s efforts against homelessness.
The event, which took place against a backdrop of tourists and locals frolicking in the turquoise water of Waikiki, also attracted the attention of some of the homeless people milling around the area.
One man approached the mayor asking about belongings that were confiscated by the police. Another homeless man gazed at posters detailing the mayor’s homeless strategies.
Joined by about half a dozen police officials, homeless service providers, key leaders of his administration, the state homeless czar and a homeless veteran, Caldwell highlighted the need to take back public spaces increasingly occupied by the homeless — a bane of Waikiki’s $15 billion tourist industry.
He also urged compassion.
“We are stepping up what we call compassionate disruption,” he said. “I think it is incredibly cruel to …