Honolulu is a beautiful place to live, but a horrible place to be homeless. Honolulu police are officially cracking down on homelessness at the direction of the Mayor. They are confiscating personal belongings, closing public parks at night, banning tents and lean-tos in public spaces, imposing fines for public urination/defecation, and rousting those from sleep on the sidewalks. Mayor Kirk Caldwell explained, in an essay published in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, that they are battling homelessness. Caldwell has demanded a war against homelessness. However, to John McCormack, a 55-year-old homeless man from Waikiki, it’s becoming more and more evident that “he’s making a war against the homeless," according to an article in the New York Times.
In the most amazing Orwellian language, Caldwell calls the crackdown "compassionate disruption." Meanwhile, police are ticketing homeless people for pushing their belongings in a shopping cart on the sidewalk; they are demanding that homeless people leave the city without offering alternative solutions. Caldwell calls the policy “doing it with aloha," the Hawaiian word that means compassion. Meanwhile, Jerry Jones, the executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, told the NY Times, “have we gotten so far out of touch with reality that our first reaction to people experiencing destitution is that it spoils our view of the beach?”
Indeed, perhaps the root of the problem is the conflict between homelessness and tourism. While more and more tourists flock to the sunny island, the homeless population has increased by 32 percent in the last 5 years. Michael Stoops, the director of community organizing for the National Coalition for the Homeless, claims that the war is “a war going on between tourism and development versus helping the homeless." People come to Hawaii for the sand, sun, and surf, and they cannot get away from the problems faced by every major American city with thousands of homeless people wandering the streets and beaches. Caldwell, who has received letters of complaint from bothered tourists, responds “with notes asking [the tourists] to give the city another chance”. He insists that homelessness is ruining the economy and the city, and he urges the war against homelessness to go on. Clearly, the tourists are winning this war.
By Lora Zuo
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