HONOLULU, HAWAII — If one wishes to help the homeless, smashing what few possessions they do have is among the worst ways to do so.
Such action is sure to ruin one’s reputation, especially if the person in question is a State Legislator.
The possibility of a ruined reputation didn’t stop Tom Brower, a Hawai’i State Senator, from taking a sledghammer to shopping carts that were allegedly being used by some homeless people near Waikiki.
Brower told KITV-4, “I chose a sledgehammer only because the carts need to be destroyed to get them off the street,” adding, “I got tired of telling people, ‘I’m trying to pass laws.’ I wanted to do something practical, that will really clean up the streets.”
State homeless coordinator Colin Kippen questions the tactic, and says that such vigilantism is not safe.
Kippen told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “If the sum total of a person’s worldly possessions can fit into the cart and you now grab it and say, ‘I’m taking it,’ it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out how that could escalate quickly.”
Brower told the newspaper, “Recently I went into Ala Moana Park where there were shopping carts near people, and I took them from them. No one really questioned me. Some people thought I was the repo man. When you are walking down the sidewalk with a sledgehammer, people get out of your way.”
He added that if a cart has a person’s possessions in it, he will remove the items from the cart before rendering the cart useless by smashing in the wheels. Brower also claims his actions are intended to show what people can do to supplement official efforts by lawmakers and nonprofit organizations to make sure everyone in the community can enjoy public space, everyone except the homeless people who are being terrorized by a madman with a sledgehammer!
One area resident told the newspaper, “It’s frustration at the highest level when you’ve got a lawmaker who is basically saying that laws don’t work.”
The truth is that those laws don’t work.
USA Today published an article in June 2012 that said more than 50 cities have “adopted some kind of anti-camping or anti-food-sharing laws” which essentially criminalize being homeless and/or feeding the homeless.
Volunteers for Food Not Bombs have been arrested in Orlando for giving food to homeless people, and members of several church groups in Raleigh, NC were threatened with arrest if the continued to give meals to the homeless.
Heather Johnson, formerly the Civil Rights Director at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, said, “criminalization measures such as [the anti-camping and anti-food-sharing laws] are counterproductive. Rather than address the root cause of homelessness, they perpetuate homelessness.”
Dr. Mary Ruwart explains in Healing Our World, the “problem that generates homelessness has been linked to the aggression of rent control, zoning restrictions, building codes, and construction moratoriums, all of which limit the availability of inexpensive housing.”
Rent control was implemented in Honolulu in 1942; a 2012 report from the Brookings Institute showed that Honolulu had the 21st most restrictive zoning ordinances in the country; a building permit is required for even the most minor housing improvements; and in 2012 the Honolulu City Council issued a moratorium on new sewer connections which means no “new home, high rise, or business can hook-up to the city sewer system until the system is upgraded, and that is not expected to happen until 2018.”
In short, there is a construction moratorium in place until at least 2018!
If Tom Brower really wanted to help the homeless, as he claims, he would not have walked around with a sledgehammer smashing shopping carts being used to transport the worldly possessions of people without a dwelling.