Maui News

City and County of Honolulu Sued Over Homeless “Sweeps”

September 17, 2015, 11:26 AM HST
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More than a dozen homeless and formerly homeless individuals joined in filing a class action lawsuit over Homeless sweeps conducted in Honolulu.

The suit was filed on behalf of the individuals by the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii Foundation and the law firm Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing.

The lawsuit alleges that the City violated the United States Constitution when it destroyed personal property belonging to the plaintiffs – who are or have been homeless – without due process of law.

The lawsuit also alleges that there was no notice, receipt, or information provided to plaintiffs regarding how property might be recovered. The plaintiffs are seeking payment for damages and attorneys fees.

One of the incidents involved an unannounced sweep in Kaka’ako, on Nov. 13, 2014, according to an ACLU press release.

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In the release, Plaintiff Tabatha Martin said, “Like many people here, my husband and I are working hard. Weʻre saving up for a small apartment for us and our four-year-old daughter. Every time the City comes and throws away our tents, or our clothes, or our IDs, they throw away our lives. We have to start all over again and pay to replace those things.  All of our savings are used up, keeping us on the street even longer.”

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The 2015 Statewide Point in Time Count shows there were 7,620 homeless individuals in the state, 4,903 of them on Oʻahu, and 1,137 on Maui.

In a statement issued this morning, the Donna Leong with the City and County of Honolulu Corporation Counsel responded to the lawsuit saying, “The Department of the Corporation Counsel will defend the city in this lawsuit vigorously.”

She continued saying, “In other challenges, federal courts have upheld the constitutionality of the Stored Property and Sidewalk Nuisance Ordinances. The ordinances support the safety, health, and welfare of all residents of the City and County of Honolulu and the city believes the ordinances will survive the current challenge.”

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Leong said the city will continue to enforce the Stored Property and Sidewalk Nuisance Ordinances and noted that the complaint pertains to enforcement of the Stored Property Ordinance and Sidewalk Nuisance Ordinances.  She said it is not related to the so called “sit/lie” bills. 

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