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Monday, June 05, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Monday, June 5, 2023

Addie Rose Flores, of South Point, won the Junior High School State Rodeo Championship and is headed with her horse Bo
to the Georgia State Fairgrounds to compete in the nationals. Photos from Addie Rose Flores
Addie Rose Flores 
ADDDIE ROSE FLORES WON THE JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL STATE RODEO CHAMPIONSHIP in May and is headed with her horse Bo to Georgia for National Championship competition June 19-24. 
    She is the first girl from Ka'ū to take the state title. The 14 year old who lives at South Point, just completed eighth grade. She made the journey to Kaua'i for the state competition where she became Hawai'i High School Rodeo Association's 2023 Junior High Champion. She won Hawai'i District Barrel Racing, State Barrel Racing and became State All Around Champion Cowgirl. She was second in Team Roping and fourth in Breakaway Roping. On Kaua'i, she also participated in poles, goat tying and ribbon roping.
    She qualified for the 2023 National Junior High Finals Rodeo to be held in Perry, Georgia at the Georgia National Fairgrounds, about an hour and a half south of Atlanta. She will compete in Barrel Racing and Breakaway Roping.
     Addie Flores said she and her horse Bo will travel with "the goal of bringing the national title home to Hawai'i. She said she will be back to compete in the Ka'ū Roping & Riding Rodeo at Nā'ālehu Rodeo Grounds on July 8 and 9.

    Also headed off island for rodeo competition are Kalia Andrade, Owen Flores and Jamis Medeiros who take off for Waimanalo this weekend for the Hawai'i High School Rodeo Association Championships.
     Paniolo are also expected to ride in the July 1 Independence Day Parade in Nā'ālehu at 11 a.m., sponsored by O Ka'u Kakou community organization. It will also include classic cars, walking groups, floats and a celebration at the park, following the parade. See more n upcoming Ka'ū News Briefs. Call Wayne Kawachi to sign up or sponsor at 808-937-4773.

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HAWAI'I COUNTY'S PLAN TO SWEEP THE HOMELESS from parks and other public spaces should stop until shelters that can accommodate the number of houseless people displaced are designated, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. On June 2, Hawai'i ACLU sent a demand letter to Mayor Mitch Roth, county Parks & Recreation Director Maurice Messina, Hawai'i Police Department Chief Benjamin  Moszkowicz and the county's Corporation Counsel Elizabeth Strance. ACLU asked for a response by close of day, June 5.
     The ACLU letter pointed to the launch of clearing homeless from county parks, which began May 24 at Hale Halawai beach park in Kona, with a plan to go next to Old Airports and beyond. The letter, penned by Hawai'i ACLU Legal Director Wookie Kim, said ACLU has learned that the initial sweep "is just the first in a series of enforcement actions that the County intends to execute against houseless people within the County," with planned sweeps of county facilities across Hawai'i Island.
    "The County is engaging in these sweeps despite knowing full well that Hawaiʻi County does not have sufficient available shelter space to house the people who have been impacted by these sweeps.
    "The County’s execution of enforcement actions under these circumstances is constitutionally problematic. In 2019, in Martin v. City of Boise, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the
well-established principle that a municipality’s enforcement of an ordinance 'violates the Eighth Amendment [to the U.S. Constitution] insofar as it imposes criminal sanctions against homeless individuals for sleeping outdoors, on public property, when no alternative shelter is available to them.' And just this past fall, Johnson v. City of Grants Pass, the Ninth Circuit — a separate published
opinion — re-affirmed the principle that a municipality 'cannot, consistent with the Eighth Amendment, enforce its anticamping ordinances against homeless persons for the mere act of sleeping outside with rudimentary protection from the elements, or for sleeping in their car at night, when there is no other place in the City for them to go.' Here — when houseless people in the County have no safe place to go without being subjected to the County’s laws that punish sheltering in public spaces — enforcement actions like the Hale Hālāwai Sweep and the Planned Sweeps (if the County chooses to move forward with them) violate the mandates of the U.S. and Hawaiʻi constitutions.
    "In light of this, we write with a demand: The County must stop the Planned Sweeps unless and until the County either stands up emergency shelter spaces that can adequately house Hawaiʻi County’s houseless community, or designates a safe space where houseless community members can exist without being subject — every single day and every single second — to County enforcement actions.
    "As you may be aware, the ACLU of Hawaiʻi has challenged other unconstitutional enforcement actions on neighboring islands, including in the City and County of Honolulu and in Maui County."
    ACLU requested a response from the County by 5 p.m., Monday, June 5 and stated that ACLU is open to discussing alternatives.
Hawai'i ACLU Legal Director Wookie Kim

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HAWAI'I ISLAND HOMELESS SERVICE PROVIDERS issued a letter of support on Monday for the ACLU demand to stop sweeps of homeless people from Hawai'i County facilities until sufficient shelters are available. The group called Community Alliance Partners said that as of last Friday, June 2, all emergency shelters on this island were full. 
    Paul Normann, Executive Director of Neighborhood Place of Puna and co-chair of Community Alliance Partners, said service providers have continuously asked the county to refrain from conducting sweeps. "When County Leadership orders police to conduct a sweep, they exacerbate the homeless crisis by making it harder for service providers to contact and help people. Beyond that, these sweeps waste 
Homeless shelters on this island were completely full
as of last Friday. Photo from Community Alliance Partners
taxpayer dollars by pushing people around without providing housing or shelter."    
    Carrie Ho'opi'i, Hope Services' Outreach Team Leader, said her team has been trying to track down people they'd been working with at Hale Halawai. "People are afraid to engage. It's hard to trust anyone on the outside when you are afraid that officers will wake you up at 4 a.m. and force you out into the night."
    Aurora Leanillo, a student in Information Technology at Hawaiʻi Community College, said she understands distrust that people are feeling. "Imagine going through every day in fear of the police. Imagine constantly worrying that your space will be invaded, and feeling like you have no free will."
Leanillo was houseless for years, and said that sweeps were a traumatic part of her experience. She said she knows some of the people who were forced to leave their camp at Hale Hālāwai. "When you're living with that kind of fear, it's hard to know who will help you and who will hurt you," Leanillo said. "They're not talking to anybody trying to offer them services, because they have been harmed by people who are supposed to be public servants."
    Renee Rivera, a former Hope Services client and houseless until 2015, said,  "I was in a sweep and it was traumatizing to see kūpuna crying and begging to save items they could not carry on their back or in a shopping cart." She said that living in an encampment provides safety for people who have lost their homes and have nowhere else to go. "When I was living on the streets, I felt much safer living in an
encampment. Even though we couldn't lock our doors, we had the security of our community, knowing that someone was always there to look out for us."
    Rivera, who is now the director of He Ho'omaka Hou Ana O' Puna, a nonprofit helping formerly incarcerated women, continued "Women and kūpuna are especially vulnerable to being attacked when they are alone on the streets. Breaking up an encampment is an act of violence."
     The statement from Community Alliance Partners, said, "The risk associated with sweeps is felt acutely in the Kona community. In May of last year, the County conducted a sweep of Old Kona Airport Park, displacing several local residents. Less than a month later, a man targeting sleeping houseless people allegedly stabbed two houseless Kona residents to death. Outreach workers who knew the victims said that both had been part of the encampment that was swept at Old Kona Airport Park.
    According to the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, "People who experience homelessness have an average life expectancy of around 50 years of age, almost 20 years lower than people who are housed." 
    Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders experience homelessness at far higher rates than any other racial group. National Alliance to End Homelessness recently released its 2023 State of Homelessness report, which shows that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders experience homelessness at far higher rates than any other racial group. The data shows they are ten times as likely as Whites, and 30 times as likely as Asians to experience homelessness.
    Community Alliance Partners stated that "this data makes sense. Outreach workers reported that in the weeks leading up to Hale Halawai Sweep, 100% of the residents they engaged with were locals from Hawaiʻi, and the majority were Native Hawaiian."
     Community Alliance Partners Co-Chair Normann said, "If the County leadership really wants to end homelessness, they need to aggressively prioritize truly affordable housing and supportive services. Sweeps are cruel, and they don't work. That's the bottom line."

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