American Civil Liberties Union Hawaii (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against Honolulu municipality Sept. 17 claiming that city crews abusively deprived homeless people of their belongings during encampment sweeps.
Kionina Kaneso, a 58-year-old woman who is also part in the ACLU lawsuit, used to live with her granddaughter on one of these encampments. Now, the woman lives in a tight shack on a city sidewalk and she is concerned that local officials may come again and deprive her of the few belongings she managed to gather since the last year’s raid of the encampment she used to call home.
Kaneso recalls that the raid left her and her family without a home and deprived them not only of shelter but also of food, clothes and other assets.
“They throw away my stuff. My food, my drink, my clothes, blankets and my granddaughter’s toys,”
the woman recalls.
ACLU is now trying to hold accountable the city council for the abusive raids that left Kaneso and hundreds of homeless people without food, water and other belongings including medication, identity cards, and other valuable goods.
ACLU attorneys filed the lawsuit on behalf of the people, and now seek damages for destroyed property and a court order to prevent future abusive raids from occurring. City officials announced Sept. 17 that a stored property ordinance designed to remove “illegal items” from several Honolulu neighborhoods’ sidewalks was on its way despite the ACLU lawsuit.
Donna Leong a spokesperson for Honolulu municipality announced that the Department of the Corporation Counsel would take all necessary steps to win the legal battle.
The suit is also aiming at the stored property ordinance which grants homeless people 24 hours to evacuate city property before being evacuated and having their property seized. Evacuation crews are also required to store the items found and give it back to people for a $200 fee.
Nevertheless, ACLU said that some crews ignore the ordinance and throw tents and other items in city dumpsters. Children also feature as plaintiffs in the lawsuit since their parents say that they had to starve because city crews threw away their food during the raids.
Kathryn Xian of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, a non-for-profit that tries to stop human trafficking in the state and across the Pacific, praised ACLU’s involvement in the cause. Xian explained that homeless people have no access to justice, so they really need ACLU’s time and money spent during the investigation.
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