With a 32 percent rise of the homeless population in Honolulu, many officials are worried that panhandlers will keep tourists away. Police have been working to fix the issue by citing tickets to keep them away from the tourist area but some feel the city's reaction has been too harsh.
“It’s time to declare a war on homelessness, which is evolving into a crisis in Honolulu,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell, according to The New York Times. “We cannot let homelessness ruin our economy and take over our city.”
Many homeless find their way to Hawaii because of the pleasant weather, but then find they are unable to survive the highest housing costs in the nation. Every week, Honolulu officials confiscate up to 10 tons of belongings left on the street by homeless people.
Mayor Caldwell, who calls this "compassionate disruption," said that he had gotten complaint letters from tourists who had run-ins with homeless people. The City Council has been debating a law that would allow police to move anyone they find lying or sleeping on a sidewalk. Public urination or defecation in Waikiki can result in a $1,000 fine or 30 days in jail. Michael Stoops, director of community organizing for the National Coalition for the Homeless said that this is “a war going on between tourism and development versus helping the homeless.”
While the council authorized a $47 million program to create affordable housing, officials acknowledge that the recent actions have mainly displaced homeless people to parts of the city that are not tourist draws.