Kauai has its homeless

6 Jan 2004 12:30 PM

Mayor Babtiste and the Homeless
by Joan Conrow formerly printed in The Kaua`i

When Mayor Baptiste was running for office, he liked to adorn his campaign literature and newspaper ads with a heart. Of course, it was all a ruse designed to get votes. The real Baptiste is the man who moved to evict the homeless from county parks — just as we were entering America’s much-revered holiday season.

I’ve heard people applaud his heartlessness, saying the beach parks have become a haven for lowlife ice addicts and dirty, dredlocked hippies with EBT cards, all of whom deserve to have their asses kicked out so taxpayers who are clean, shorn and addicted to legal stuff can use the beaches in peace.

I don’t think most of the “dredhead” kids will be impacted by the mayor’s plan, however, because they frequent beaches that require a walk and cops don’t generally venture far from their patrol cars. By the time the cops and state conservation officers do try to roust them, they’ve already moved somewhere else.

As for the “ice addicts,” who are now vilified as unredeemable scum (never mind that physicians routinely prescribe the very same crystal meth to our nation’s military elite, the bomber pilots, and parents and schools regularly feed ice-like Ritalin to young kids), where are they supposed to go? We have no treatment programs on Kauai. And like the flower children, they don’t tend to hang around waiting for the cops to show up.

No, the people hit hardest by the evictions are the ones with kids, the ones with disabilities who can’t make the hike to the remote beaches, the ones who need access to a shower so they can go to work clean, the ones who feel some semblance of safety in a park, the ones who don’t have families here to take them in, the ones with no money, no credit and no hope of pulling themselves up by their slipper straps.

Yes, Baptiste rounded up the poorest, weakest and most desperate members of our society. He diverted the police from real crimes and directed them to instead bully the single mothers, native Hawaiians, alternative lifestyle folks and working poor who simply can’t afford a rental on this island. And if they didn’t comply with the order to leave, they were threatened with arrest and jail, which means their kids could be thrown into the Child Protective Services system. What does that solve, and how much does that approach ultimately cost the taxpayer?

Baptiste claims he’s lost sleep (presumably in a comfy bed) over his decision. He insists that businesses are up in arms over the campers, which the Chamber of Commerce denies, and that the parks are a hotbed of crime, which was news to the cops. He also said he’s working on a homeless shelter (we’re the only island without one) and more affordable housing. However, those services could be years away, and it’s unclear what folks are supposed to do in the meantime.

But why pick on the homeless at all? They’re just one of many factors affecting our public beaches. Other, far more pressing issues include pollution from human sewage, siltation from unregulated grubbing and grading, decrepit restrooms, the proliferation of beachfront vacation rentals in regions not designated as Visitor Destination Areas, shoreline encroachment by greedy homeowners, and accesses lost or closed due to county malfeasance.

Certainly it’s much easier to attack and criminalize the homeless than deal with such political landmines as reforming the public works department and a kapakahi property tax system, creating truly affordable housing, improving social services, adopting sensible land use policies, obtaining beach accesses through eminent domain proceedings, and halting the relentless gentrification of this island fueled by the very same crowd that happily coughs up dough for political campaigns.

When I see Hawaiians and families crying because they have no place to go if they can’t camp at the beach parks, when I hear locals tell me they no longer pick shells or fish because they feel shy, even ashamed, to pursue such activities at beaches now crowded by extravagant homes and overrun by tourists, I know that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Of course, the process of setting things right requires intelligent, thoughtful leadership from a mayor who has political courage and yes, a heart. Which is precisely why we’re getting instead an ineffective, mean-spirited, short-sighted, reactionary plan whose implementation depends upon the use of guns and threats


The Homeless Issue & The Housing Crunch


3 January 2004 - 12:30pm

by Faith Harding 3 January 2004

There is a group of us on the island, The Kauai Peace Ohana and Project Hope, that is relieved there is FINALLY alternative press here on the island.
We would like to voice our opinions about the homeless issue on the island as well as the housing crunch that is happening.
There is a rapidly growing homeless issue on this island and it's not just folks that have mental disabilities or are drug addicts. Kauai is becoming more and more about the division between the rich and the working poor. So many folks here are finding it hard to find affordable housing. Who wants to work 3 jobs to just pay rent?!
The council needs to address this issue and maybe some rent control as well. Perhaps a suggestion that all mulit-unit construction should be required by the County Government to include 10% low and middle income housing.  This would apply to hotel, vacation timeshare as well as condoniniums.
Since the Mayor just wants to evict these folks and they have no where to go maybe camping out in front of the County Bldg. would be the most effective way of showing Baptiste that the homelessness on this island needs to be addressed.
Additionally, the homeless should be allowed to camp on state property outside of the county and state parks.  This would include the areas around the Hanapepe airport and Lihue airport.  The County should provide access to potable water and toilets at these locations.
There is a plan, that Mayor Baptiste has floated at town meetings, to close public parks at night.  This, again, is to reduce crime and drug use.  This is another thinly disguised attack on the poor and middle class.  Like the homeless, they have little other than public spaces in which to enjoy their lives with family and friends. 
By turning off the lights in the pavilions and closing the parks Baptiste will only increase crime and drug use.  Only criminals and drug addicts will dare to be in the parks.  It is disappointing that the Mayor is using the same tactics as the current bankrupt US President.  Make them afraid and them make them turn on those less fortunate.
If you are an uptight suburbanite and you feel uncomfortable seeing local people hanging out at the beach, maybe you shouldn't be on a tropical island.
Project Hope has been trying to find a building for a drop-in shelter.  We are a non-profit organization that Blu Dux and the Open Mike at Grinds in Ele'ele supporters have been backing since its inception.  We would like to find a building that we could offer food, showers, job information and a health clinic. 
We need a building first.  We tried to acquire the old Humane Society building but we were shot down by the County.  We were told the building was to be used fora teen drug rehab center.  While we acknowledge there is a need for a teen drug rehab center, we feel the need for a homeless shelter is something that cannot be denied any longer.
If anyone is willing to help us in our plight, please contact:
Blu Dux: 332-0952
Faith Harding: 742-7538
Or come by Open Mike at Grinds in Eleele every Sat. night 7:30-10:30.



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