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Homeless people sue Maui mayor, county over encampment sweep

Flickr - Colin Miller

WAILUKU, Hawaiʻi — Homeless people cleared from an encampment near a Kahului park have sued Maui Mayor Michael Victorino and the county, saying the move was unconstitutional and violated their rights.

Sixty-four people were forced to vacate or face arrest, said the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaiʻi, which is representing the lawsuit's four plaintiffs. Many lost vehicles, clothing and cooking supplies.

The lawsuit filed in 2nd Circuit Court asks a judge to declare that each plaintiff’s procedural due process rights and their right to be free from unreasonable search and seizures were violated.

“The county appears to believe that our clients are not entitled to constitutional protections because they are houseless and reside in public spaces,” Wookie Kim, the legal director of the ACLU of Hawaiʻi, said in a news release Tuesday.

A county spokesperson said the county doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Victorino told The Maui News in October that the encampment was creating hazards for the nearby wastewater treatment facility and Kanaha Pond. He said Amala Place had been reclaimed “as a clean, safe roadway for public access to Kanaha Beach Park.”

“The intervention was necessary to resolve the growing health and safety hazards for both encampment occupants and the community at large,” the mayor wrote.

Maui County and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources began clearing people from the encampment beginning in late September, the mayor said. In less than a week, they removed 58 tons of solid waste and 54 derelict vehicles.

He said outreach workers met regularly with campers and officered social services.

Plaintiff Sonia Davis, a 64-year-old Native Hawaiian woman born and raised on Maui, has been recovering from surgery to treat cancer. She was unable to afford housing and living in Kanaha since her rental assistance funding ran out, the ACLU news release said.

Davis has worked hard to fight a methamphetamine addiction and has been sober since completing a rehabilitation program following an arrest in 2019 for possession of drugs, the ACLU said.

Fellow plaintiffs Adam Walton, 40, and Lauralee B. Riedell, 48, both house cleaners, were unable to find a place to live within their budget on Maui and living in their car at Kanaha.

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