Officials, individuals, organizations calling on City & HPD to stop homeless ‘sweeps’ amid the pandemic

Over 70 officials, organizations, and individuals are calling for the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) he City and County of Honolulu to stop “sweeps” of the homeless community during the pandemic.

Even if people have nowhere else to go, HPD and the City have promised to continue giving out citations and arrest those at parks and beaches.

The statement and list of signatories is as follows: 

“We call on the leadership of the City and County of Honolulu — and the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) in particular — to stop sweeping our houseless neighbors in the middle of this unprecedented global pandemic. It is cruel, legally questionable (at best), and a threat to public health and safety. Public health experts locally and nationally say this is bad health policy, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) itself has weighed in with the following guidance: “Considerations for encampments — If individual housing options are not available, allow people who are living unsheltered or in encampments to remain where they are. Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.

That is crystal clear. And yet — flying in the face of CDC guidance — last week HPD Chief Susan Ballard said people who are unsheltered will be cited and arrested if they are in the parks or on the beaches. Making this more confusing is the fact that since the pandemic began, more than 10,000 citations have been issued statewide — thousands to people who are unsheltered — and prosecutors on Oahu and Maui have begun dismissing those citations en masse because they never should have been issued in the first place. This is because people who are houseless are exempt under the emergency orders because they have no place else to go. Issuing new citations after dismissing old citations is nothing more than harassment.

We all want people who are unsheltered to get into housing, but our shelters now have less space than ever because of social distancing guidelines. Just this week there has been an outbreak of COVID-19 at the Iwilei homeless shelter. Forcing more people inside will make this worse. And if an unsheltered person is arrested for being in a park or on a beach on O’ahu, they’ll be sent to the O’ahu Community Correctional Center, which is now seeing its own growing outbreak of the virus. We never agree with these sweeps. They’re cruel, ineffective, and the 9th Circuit Court of appeals has said sweeps like these are unconstitutional, a decision the U.S. Supreme Court let stand. But aside from those legal, philosophical, and humanitarian differences with the City’s policy, continuing with sweeps now is endangering public safety, not protecting it. Please join us in a call to end this practice, at least until this pandemic is behind us.”

Signatories

  • African-American Lawyers Association
  • ALEA Bridge
  • American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai’i
  • Church and Society, Harris United Methodist Church
  • Drug Policy Forum of Hawai’i
  • Family Promise of Hawai’i
  • Hawai’i Alliance for Community-Based Economic Development
  • Hawai’i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice
  • Hawai’i Children’s Action Network
  • Hawai’i Friends of Civil Rights
  • Hawai’i Health & Harm Reduction Center
  • Hawai’i Innocence Project
  • Hawai’i J-20+
  • Hawai’i Public Health Institute
  • Hawai’i Strategy Lab
  • Hui Aloha
  • Japanese American Citizens League – Honolulu Chapter
  • Medical-Legal Partnership for Children in Hawai’i
  • Mental Health America of Hawai’i
  • Muslim Association of Hawai’i
  • Honolulu Hawai’i NAACP
  • National Association of Social Workers-Hawai’i
  • ?Oiwi TV
  • Pacific Gateway Center
  • Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawai’i
  • The Popolo Project
  • Project Hiehie
  • Project Vision Hawai’i
  • Temple Emanu-El
  • UNITE HERE! Local 5
  • Dr. Amy Agbayani
  • Christopher Akana
  • Alani Apio, Hui Aloha volunteer
  • Shanty Sigrah Asher
  • Sonja Bigalke-Bannan, MSW, LSW
  • Twinkle Borge, Pu’uhonua O Wai’anae
  • Cathy Kawano-Ching, Hui Aloha volunteer
  • Samantha Church
  • Rev. Thomas J. FitzGerald, First Unitarian Church of Honolulu
  • Cecilia H. Fordham
  • Lieutenant Governor Josh Green
  • Clare Hanusz, Attorney-at-Law
  • Jen Jenkins, Community Co-Chair to the Department of Heath’s Sex and Gender Minority Work Group
  • Darrah Kauhane, Executive Director of Project Vision Hawai’i and Project Hiehie
  • John Kawamoto
  • Rynette Keen
  • Justin F. Kollar, Prosecuting Attorney – County of Kaua’i
  • James Koshiba, Hui Aloha
  • Professor Linda Hamilton Krieger, University of Hawai’i at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law
  • Charles R. Lawrence III, Prof. Emeritus, University of Hawai’i at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law
  • Professor Ken Lawson
  • Professor Mark A. Levin
  • Professor Justin Levinson
  • Professor Mari Matsuda
  • Diane Matsuura, Harris United Methodist Church
  • Patricia McManaman, Retired Attorney
  • Le?a Minton, Certified Nurse-Midwife, MI-Home Program
  • Dee Nakamura
  • Deja Ostrowski, Medical-Legal Partnership for Children in Hawai’i
  • Professor Robert Perkinson
  • Kaimana Pine, Hui Aloha volunteer
  • Rosanna Prieto, MSW
  • Cheryl Prince, LCSW
  • Nathalie Rita, PhD Candidate
  • Dodie Rivera, MSN, RN
  • Darlene Rodrigues
  • Darcie Scharfenstein, Hui Aloha volunteer
  • Professor Nandita Sharma
  • Dina Shek, Medical-Legal Partnership for Children in Hawai’i
  • Professor Avi Soifer
  • Chloe Stewart
  • Nicky S. Winter, Executive Director of ALEA Bridge
  • Summer Lee Yadao
  • Professor Eric Yamamoto
  • Fred T. Korematsu Professor of Law and Social Justice