By Allyson Blair / Hawaii News Now
Over at N.T. Automotive, not much has changed since Hawaii News Now stopped by last November.
Inside, owner Todd Nita is hard at work while the sidewalk in front of his shop remains clogged with tents. Video taken by Hawaii News Now crews on Thursday appeared nearly identical to what our cameras captured three months ago.
This morning, though, Nita and other area business got some unexpected news; a call from councilman Joey Manahan's office, alerting him that a Sit-Lie proposal for his neighborhood is finally moving forward.
"It's a little sign of relief. At least now maybe something is going to be done," said Nita.
Getting to this point hasn't been easy. In 2015, Mayor Kirk Caldwell vetoed a bill that would expand the city's Sit-Lie law into parts of Iwilei and Kapalama, citing legal concerns. After more than a year of re-working the proposal, Manahan finally crafted a plan that the mayor stands behind.
"It's not broad. It doesn't go into residential areas," Caldwell told Hawaii News Now. "As long as it stays in industrial areas, and commercial areas where businesses are being adversely affected by people camping on sidewalks, I support that."
There are two different enforcement zones being proposed: In Kalihi, the zone would span between parts of North King Street and Dillingham Boulevard. In Iwilei, the zone includes segments of four roads off Nimitz Highway.
It's estimated there are about 130 people living in the combined areas. Outreach workers say most are heavy drug users who bounce between the street, the hospital and jail.
"What these people need are in-patient detox and substance abuse treatment programs," said Kimo Carvalho, director of the Institute for Human Services.
In addition to enforcement, Manahan wants to encourage people to get their lives back on track. In some cases, that would mean giving people a choice between treatment or jail.
"We're bringing the services out to them. They wouldn't have to go into a courtroom," said Manahan. "We're actually trying to clear up their paperwork right there on the street, so they can get the help that they need."
But that kind of help is often hard to come by.
"Sometimes it can take a month just for inpatient bed in a drug treatment center to open up," Carvalho.
If the City Council does approve the plan, it could go into effect as early as May.
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