Media Contact

Joshua Wisch, 808.522.5903 or 808.542.4089

December 22, 2020

Honolulu, Hawai‘i – For the third year in a row, an ever-growing list of officials, groups and individuals—including civil rights organizations, elected officials, service providers, faith leaders, activists, academics, medical experts, community members and more—released a statement expressing disappointment in the continued and cruel “sweeps” of houseless people and their families by the City and County of Honolulu during the holidays. They call on the community to reach out to Mayor Caldwell, and look forward to a new approach under Mayor-Elect Blangiardi.

The statement is as follows:

“For three years running now we have asked the City and County of Honolulu not to sweep unsheltered people during the holidays. It’s cruel, it’s unconstitutional, it’s discriminatory, it squanders limited public resources, and–during the COVID-19 pandemic–it’s deadly.

Don’t take our word for it. The Centers for Disease Control has said that ‘if individual housing options are not available, allow people who are living unsheltered or in encampments to remain where they are’ because ‘clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.’

Nevertheless–ignoring this public health advice at a time when COVID-19 is reaching new heights–and with little to no available shelter, the Caldwell administration is once again plowing forward with holiday sweeps.

This approach is as mystifying as it is cruel, because the City has nothing to show for it. According to the 2020 point in time count, there were 1,465 people unsheltered in Honolulu in 2013 when Mayor Caldwell came into office and there are 2,346 people unsheltered in Honolulu in 2020. That’s right, the number of people who are unsheltered has increased by 77 percent while the City wasted millions of dollars sweeping human beings like trash.

Sweeps. Don’t. Work.

As we have said repeatedly, we never agree with these sweeps. But they are especially cruel during the holidays—particularly when we consider how many of the people affected are children. And what’s worse is that during the pandemic, the Caldwell administration and the Honolulu Police Department have not just been sweeping our houseless community members, but also disproportionately targeting them for emergency order enforcement. A person experiencing houselessness in Honolulu has been 55 times more likely to be arrested under COVID emergency orders than a housed person. This isn’t protection. This is persecution.

We call on community members during this holiday season to phone the Office of the Mayor at (808) 768-4141 and ask Mayor Caldwell to end this practice, at least over the holidays. Let him know that people who are unsheltered on our streets deserve better than to be awoken by a police flashlight at 3:00 am demanding they move or face arrest. Let him know he should listen to the advice of public health officials and not sweep people during a pandemic.

We hope that in its waning days, this administration listens. But if it does not, we look forward to reaching out to the Blangiardi administration and discussing options with them for treating unsheltered people humanely and getting people into permanent housing. Options that honor our laws, that honor advice of public health experts, and that honor the basic human dignity of people who are struggling to make ends meet in one of the most expensive places to live in the world in the midst of a pandemic that has caused record unemployment. We’re optimistic. Mayor-Elect Blangiardi has said he will permanently end the use of sweeps against houseless individuals and encampments, and reinvest the savings in community services such as mental health outreach and housing. We support him in that commitment, and we look forward to working constructively with the new administration to make this fresh approach a reality.”

The following officials, groups, and individuals joined in this statement:

  • African American Lawyers Association of Hawai‘i
  • ʻĀina Aloha Economic Futures 
  • ALEA Bridge
  • American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai‘i
  • Catholic Worker House of Honolulu
  • Church & Society of Harris United Methodist Church
  • Domestic Violence Action Center
  • Drug Policy Forum of Hawai‘i
  • Faith Action for Community Equity
  • Family Promise of Hawai‘i
  • Food Not Bombs
  • Gay Island Guide
  • Hawaiʻi Alliance for Community Based Economic Development
  • Hawai‘i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice
  • Hawai‘i Children’s Action Network
  • Hawai‘i Community Bail Fund
  • Hawai‘i Friends of Civil Rights
  • Hawai‘i Health and Harm Reduction Center
  • Hawai‘i Innocence Project
  • Hawai‘i Public Health Institute
  • Hawai‘i Strategy Lab
  • Hep Free Hawai‘i
  • Honolulu Hawai‘i NAACP
  • Hub Coworking Hawai‘i
  • Japanese American Citizens League - Honolulu Chapter
  • The Legal Clinic
  • Mental Health America of Hawai‘i
  • Muslim Association of Hawai‘i 
  • Native Hawaiian Church
  • O‘ahu Intertribal Council
  • Office of the Public Defender, State of Hawai‘i
  • Our Revolution Hawai‘i
  • Pacific Justice and Reconciliation Center
  • Pacific Peace Center KPT
  • Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawai‘i
  • The Pōpolo Project
  • The Progressive Movement Hawai‘i
  • Project Vision Hawai‘i
  • Residential Youth Services & Empowerment (RYSE)
  • Temple Emanu-El
  • UNITE HERE Local 5
  • Women's Fund of Hawai‘i 
  • Christopher Akana
  • Rev. Eric Anderson, Pastor, Church of the Holy Cross UCC, Hilo
  • Alani Apio, member, Hui Aloha
  • Daphne Barbee-Wooten
  • Rev. David Baumgart Turner, pastor - Church of the Crossroads
  • Mona R Bomgaars, M.D.
  • Catherine Chen, Immigration Attorney, Medical-Legal Partnership for Children in Hawai‘i
  • Rev Samuel L. Domingo, United Methodist Pastor, Retired
  • Rev. Brandon Duran, minister, Central Union Church
  • Walter Enriquez, Jr.
  • Jacquie Esser, Deputy Public Defender
  • Rev. T. J. FitzGerald, Minister, First Unitarian Church of Honolulu
  • Forest Frizzell
  • Victor Geminiani
  • Lieutenant Governor Josh Green, M.D.
  • Dr. Kahu Haaheo Guanson
  • Clare Hanusz
  • Rev. Mary Herbig, Minister, Central Union Church
  • Wally and Kay Inglis
  • Jenifer Jenkins
  • Kānāwai Māmalahoe
  • Rev. Jessica Kawamura, Pastor, Wahiawa United Methodist Church
  • Cathy Kawano-Ching, member, Hui Aloha
  • R. Ipo Keen
  • Justin F. Kollar, Prosecuting Attorney, County of Kaua‘i
  • James Koshiba, member, Hui Aloha
  • Nanci Kreidman, Executive Director – Domestic Violence Action Center
  • Linda Hamilton Krieger, Professor of Law
  • Professor Charles R. Lawrence III
  • Kenneth Lawson, Co-Director, Hawai‘i Innocence Project
  • Keoni Lee
  • Mark A. Levin, Professor of Law
  • Josh Levinson
  • Professor Justin Levinson
  • Gordon Lum 
  • Heather Lusk, Executive Director of Hawai‘i Health and Harm Reduction Center
  • Kylee Pōmaika’i Mar, member, Hui Aloha
  • Professor Mari Matsuda
  • H. Doug Matsuoka, activist and founding member of Hawai‘i Guerrilla Video Hui
  • Diane Matsuura
  • Patricia McManaman
  • Christy MacPherson
  • Bob Merce, attorney
  • Leʻa Minton, midwife, MI-Home program, University Health Partners of Hawaiʻi 
  • Daniel Mistak, Director of Health Care Initiatives for Justice-Involved Populations, Community Oriented Correctional Health Services
  • Camaron Miyamoto - Director, LGBTQ+ Center, UH Mānoa
  • Dave Mulinix
  • Dee Nakamura, ALEA Bridge Case manager Outreach Specialist
  • Dr. Kahu Kaleo Patterson
  • Angelica Penaran
  • Robert Perkinson, PhD. 
  • Kaimana Pinē, member, Hui Aloha
  • Sherry Pollack
  • Rose Prieto, MSW - Education Coordinator, O‘ahu Intertribal Council
  • Linda L. Rich, Chair - Justice and Witness Missional Team, Hawai‘i Conference, United Church of Christ
  • Nathalie Rita, PhD Candidate 
  • Darlene Rodrigues
  • Darcie Scharfenstein, member, Hui Aloha
  • David Shaku, Program Manager with Hawai‘i Health & Harm Reduction Center
  • Nandita Sharma, Professor, Sociology Department at UH Manoa
  • Dina Shek, Legal Director, Medical-Legal Partnership for Children
  • Carrie Ann Shirota, Attorney
  • Professor Avi Soifer
  • Chloe Stewart
  • Lorenn Walker, Director, Hawai‘i Friends of Restorative Justice
  • John F. Webster and Dawn Morais Webster
  • Tami Iida Whitney
  • Nicky Winter, Executive Director, ALEA Bridge
  • Summer Yadao
  • Minda Yamaga, attorney
  • Cheryl Yamamoto, Harris United Methodist Church
  • George Yarbrough
  • Eric Yamamoto, Fred T. Korematsu Professor of Law and Social Justice