When Panhandling and tourism meet

Businesses are all about kindness and aloha, but some stores grapple with what to do when loiterers ask for money.

Kauai does not have a panhandling ordinance but can use the disorderly conduct statute.

“More or less, someone who is creating a disturbance may be charged with disorderly conduct or other laws such as impeding or obstructing, for the purpose of begging or soliciting alms in a public place,” said County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar.

As far as Kollar knows, no one has ever been cited under that section on Kauai.

“In general, I am opposed to laws that criminalize houselessness,” Kollar said.

Clifford Ogata, Hawaii managing director of ValueRock Realty Partners, owners of the Kauai Village Shopping Center in Kapaa, said they don’t have policies in general but that 24-hour security presence is effective in making sure people know where they can or can’t hang out at any given time or place.

“We do have security there and basically empower them to take care of issues, and they have some pretty good lines they can use to excuse people,” Ogata said. “We have not had any big issue in that sense and that is in part because security is on site day and night.”

North Shore approach

North Shore businesses approach different issues in various ways.

Patricia Ewing, president of Kong Lung Market Center in Kilauea, said there was some panhandling around five years ago but it stopped. Some people thought it was OK to put a cup out until told it wasn’t.

“It never happened here again,” Ewing said. “I think it is growing more in the parks and public areas.”

The North Shore is a destination for transients and backpackers making their way to the end of the road. They set up in the camps, on the beaches or vacant land. When they come to the shopping center it is not an issue unless they give the tenants a problem.

“The tenants themselves police the courtyard and public areas,” Ewing said.

There are people that look as though they need a caregiver, she added. Others come in as customers to get a cup of coffee in the morning and remain on premises all day to use WiFi or just sit. As long as they’re polite and respectful, they’re welcome.

But sometimes, someone will be rude or disrespectful, or will use store property as if it was their own. They will use the sprinkler hoses to wash up and fill five gallon jugs in view of the customers. The worst and thankfully the rarest are the individuals who exhibit such inappropriate behavior that Ewing has been forced to call police.

“We had a person who was here all day for three days in a row and so we talked to the them,” she added.

Illegal vendors

The market center bulletin board is full of business cards for services. Ewing watches out for the massage therapists setting up a table on the shopping center grass, or the “counselors” who schedule appointments in the bakery coffee shop.

“We are pretty straight forward,” Ewing said. “If someone is out there trying to sell something, we go out there and tell them they are on private property.”

It isn’t fair to the paying tenants to have to host these other businesses, she said. It is one thing to hold a meeting but if there is a transaction or they are distracting customers, then it is not.

Deborah Ward, spokeswoman with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, said there is a reported increase in vending without a written permit on state land throughout Kauai. The most common of these petty misdemeanor violations involved selling of arts, crafts and other merchandise at tourist areas.

Part of history

Jeff Culverhouse, manager and partner of Ching Young Village in Hanalei, said they don’t allow panhandling. They see people with their hand out or a hat on the ground in front of the Big Save occasionally.

“I go out there and tell them that we don’t allow that at the mall,” Culverhouse said. “We’ve not had a major problem.”

There really isn’t a policy about vagrants. It usually involves the store owners and management talking about what to do.

“We get more of that in the winter time when the transients move here from the Mainland where it is cold, to sleep on the North Shore beaches,” Culverhouse said. “I think the lifeguards have a harder time of it removing un-permitted campers from the beaches.”

To understand homeless issues, he said you have to realize they helped make the plaza what it is today.

Ching Yuk Hom started the business in 1906, and it evolved with the times until becoming the shopping center in 1982. In the 1960s, a number of people choosing not to participate in the war in Southeast Asia, moved to Hanalei to live off the land and formed Taylor Camp.

These people came to Ching Young to buy their supplies, Culverhouse said. They were technically homeless but had a strong relationship with the business as customers and community.

“They helped make Ching Young what it is today,” he added.

The appreciation for those people resonates to this day with a policy of balancing humanity with tourism, he said.

A homeless veteran who sleeps nearby hangs around the shopping center, he said. The man is nice and sociable and people give him food.

“We didn’t kick him out because he knows his place,” Culverhouse said. “The most problems we get are from people who drink too much.”

When people get obnoxious, or pass out on the benches and sidewalks, then it is time to take action and remove them from the shopping center, he said. If someone is nice, not drunk, and looks to be in need then people tend to understand what it is to be down on your luck and try to help.

“We try to do it as humbly as possible,” he added.

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