- Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - Honolulu officials have agreed to pay $48,500 to 21 homeless people to settle a lawsuit challenging the way the city enforced its laws that prohibit blocking or storing property on sidewalks.

The City Council voted in favor of the settlement Wednesday after reaching an agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii last month, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (https://bit.ly/1QNsV1r).

The agreement allows the city to continue enforcing its policy as long as it doesn’t dispose of personal belongings such as tents, clothing and household goods. The city has also agreed to make improvements to its impounding and storage procedures and make it easier for people to retrieve their property.

The city is allowed to immediately dispose of combustible or hazardous items, weapons, illicit drugs, items that contain urine or feces, and items “that cannot reasonably be construed as anything other than trash.”

Daniel Gluck, ACLU of Hawaii’s legal director, said the lawsuit was not meant to stop the city’s enforcement actions, but to make sure that those actions were in line with the U.S. Constitution.

In its lawsuit, the ACLU accused city employees conducting sweeps of homeless encampments of violating the Fourth and 14th amendments by seizing and immediately destroying personal property. It also said the city failed to give a required 24 hours’ notice of the sweeps on multiple occasions.

Councilman Trevor Ozawa said the settlement has brought changes to the city that will help it better enforce its sidewalk-clearing laws.

“It resulted in clearer policies for the city administration going forward, which is the most important thing out of this whole result,” Ozawa said. “So in the end, it’s a good settlement between the city and ACLU.”

The City Council has also approved an additional $50,000 to pay its legal fees in the case, bringing the total spent in the city’s defense to $150,000


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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