Last August I wrote a blog piece on the Women Against Registry website regarding homeless registrants living in city parks and on the beaches of Oahu. At that time, the island seemed to be doing just fine without any presence or residency restrictions. Hawaii is one of 20 states that doesn’t have restrictions. Back then, Hawaii’s public defender, Jack Tonaki made this comment “the island is so small, residency restrictions would make it impossible for registrants to find housing.”
As far as I can tell, the island hasn’t grown in the past 6 months.
Fast forward to news out of Hawaii this week. There is a proposal going before lawmakers to make it illegal for any registrants to temporarily or permanently live within 1000 feet of a school, childcare facility, park or playground.
Why? What’s changed? Between August when I wrote that blog and now, 6 months later, what the hell has changed in Oahu?
For years Hawaii has had the nation’s highest per capita rate of homelessness and a handful of those homeless just happen to be registrants. But there haven’t been any horrific issues occurring in the past 6 months with regard to registrants. Why all of a sudden is there a need for 1000 feet residency restrictions to keep registrants from being too near schools, childcare facilities, parks or playgrounds?
Why the abrupt “about face” on residency restrictions?
The measure proposed is in response to recent findings that there are “28 sex offenders” who are registered as living in Oahu’s parks and beaches. Well, so what? That information isn’t new. The information that there were registrants having to reside in parks and beaches due to lack of available housing was available 6 months ago. (I guess it’s hard to find the facts when you really don’t want to look for them.)
Homeless registrants on the island have always been allowed to list parks and beaches as their place of residence if that’s the only place they could find to reside. And, if Hawaii’s registrants relocate to another beach or park, they usually change their addresses as required, just like registrants anywhere else in the country. In the past, a registrant’s residency wasn’t an issue. Hawaii has an enormous homeless population, it’s hard to believe that the 28 registrants living in Oahu’s parks and beaches suddenly created a public safety issue which now requires restrictions. What about other groups of homeless, are there no public safety issues with them, only issues with the “28 sex offenders”?
According to an AP release last November, there are 487 homeless persons for every 100,000 people in Hawaii. Increasing costs, decreasing wages, limited land, changes in public housing policy and mental health services have caused a lot of people in Hawaii to be homeless.
State Rep. Scott Nishimoto stated “It’s shocking, we have to make safe environments, especially in schools and playgrounds. The measure will bring us in line with what other jurisdictions, municipalities and states are doing”.
Mr. Nishimoto, just because other states have residency and presence restrictions, doesn’t mean they are right. Do you really want to be known as the state rep. who passes proposals “just because everyone else is doing it.”? As a state rep. don’t you feel some obligation to educate yourself and get your facts straight “before” leading the charge on these lame-brain proposals?
State Sen. Karl Rhoads, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee seems to agree that “sex offenders living in parks is an issue.” But he does acknowledge that the proposed changes could actually cause problems by limiting places registrants could live. He gives this example, there’s a registrant that lives in his condo tower and there’s a park directly across the street. With the new proposal, this registrant would be forced to move. (Hmm, is there a correlation here?)
Senator, while registrants are the target of this proposal, I would think the fact that anyone forced to live in a park or on a beach because they can’t find housing, would be a public safety issue you’d want to address.
State Rep. Nishimoto reports there will be a hearing on the bill in the next few weeks. “We can flesh out all the arguments, but I really think we have to err on the side of public safety with this one” Nishimoto said. (I think what he means is, let’s pass the proposal and maybe discuss it afterwards.)
What’s next Mr. Senator, Mr. State Representative?
Will you be suggesting that registrants are rounded up and herded off cliffs into the ocean like lemmings?