Christmas eve for homeless in Honolulu means Sweeps

The ACLU of Hawai‘i reached out to the office of the Mayor this weekend, urging the City to reconsider and cancel its planned “sweep” of Waikiki’s houseless community this Christmas Eve. As of 1:30 p.m. today, the City has refused.

The ACLU and homelessness experts note that nothing prevents the City from connecting people with services, including helping people get into shelters or more permanent housing, without the threat of arrest. In fact, these services are more likely to be accepted when not accompanied by property seizure or the threat of arrest.

Executive Director Joshua Wisch said: “As legal advocates the ACLU believes – especially in light of recent court decisions – that the sweeps are constitutionally questionable. As people, we’re saddened the City continues to use the holidays to harass the least fortunate among us. And so-called “compassionate disruption” doesn’t work: the number of unsheltered people on Oahu has increased since it began.”

In addition to carrying out “sweeps” the day before Thanksgiving this year, the City also announced (but did not carry out) sweeps during Hurricane Lane. It is not clear at this time if the City plans additional sweeps during the rest of the holiday season.

Wisch continued, “Where the ACLU agrees with the City is our desire for unsheltered families to spend Christmas with a roof over their heads. We disagree with the City’s methods. City employees will spend their Christmas Eve pre-dawn hours waking up sleeping houseless families and seizing what little they have. No matter to what religion or belief you ascribe, the holidays are meant to be a time of goodwill. This is not aloha.”

The sweeps are announced on the City’s website ( at least one day in advance, as part of the 2015 Martin v. City and County of Honolulu settlement. They are also listed on the ACLU of Hawaii’s social media streams (#aclusweeptweet).

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