Lawmaker Says Violence Is the Solution to Homeless Problem
A veteran Hawaii lawmaker believes he's come up with the perfect solution to deal with his state's rampant homelessness problem: Hassle homeless people and destroy their stuff with a sledgehammer.
And, the one time a politician would be better off being just talk, Tom Brower isn't.
Over the last two weeks, the five-term Democratic state representative has taken his trusty sledgehammer to some 30 shopping carts being used by homeless people around Waikiki to transport their meager possessions.
Brower swears he takes all belongings out of the cart before smashing it to bits, and insists he hasn't smashed shopping carts that were being pushed by homeless people, but tells Hawaii News Now "that may be coming."
"I got tired of telling people I'm trying to pass laws. I want to do something practical that will really clean up the streets," Brower told the news station.
Though Brower calls his "beautification campaign" a "good thing," Mental Health America of Hawaii executive director Marya Grambs respectfully disagrees.
"His message to the public is that it's okay to commit acts of violence against homeless people, against vulnerable people," she said.
Institute of Human Services executive director Connie Mitchell concurs, and thinks Brower's violent acts may make matters much worse for homeless people who are on the streets due to a past trauma.
"To see someone with a sledgehammer sometimes can be re-traumatizing for a lot of people," Mitchell said.
In fact, one homeless person who spoke with Hawaii News Now said seeing Brower "banging on stuff like that" was "very scary for me."
Brower, who is also encouraging residents to hassle homeless people they see sleeping at bus stops — "I’ll walk up and say, ‘Get your ass moving’" — admits he's not "100 percent comfortable" with the sledgehammer approach, but is proud of it just the same.
"I think it's good that I'm taking these actions because it brings the discussion out," he told KITV. "And if I am breaking the law I'd want to hear from people and how can I modify my approach."
ThinkProgress points out that Hawaii has the highest rate of homelessness [pdf] in the country, and passed funding to buy a one-way plane ticket for any homeless person who wants to leave.