Updated: September 30, 2022
Maui resident Laura Reidell said she knows what it’s like to sleep in her vehicle after not being able to pay for high rent costs during the pandemic.
She testified at a Maui County Council committee hearing recently, saying that her sleepless nights look a lot like this: “Will the police come tonight? And if they do, where will I go? In a rush to pack my things, will I misplace my work clothes for tomorrow? How will I function at work with lack of sleep? Will this affect my work performance? Will I get fired? Will I lose my job? How did I become homeless? Where will I go when there is no place to go?”
If the council approves a measure called Bill 108 that allows county parking lots to be used for human habitation, Reidell and others said they will have a safe place to sleep.
Maui County Council on Friday voted unanimously to approve the bill on first reading. Bill 108 now advances to the second and final reading at full council.
Council Member Gabe Johnson said Bill 108 will enable the county to establish a “safe sleeping zone” for houseless people. The pilot project received an allocation of up to $200,000 in fiscal year 2023 budget, he added.
“Safe sleeping sites at parking lots that are controlled selected and supervised by the county would help protect and support our most vulnerable community members,” Johnson said.
Lisa Darcy, founder of Maui organization Share Your Mana and member of the county’s Commission on Healing Solutions for Homelessness, has long advocated for the unsheltered and unhoused.
Darcy at the council meeting Friday praised members for supporting the proposal.
“You listened and you heard them and you’re acting,” she said.
“This is actually something that demonstrates hope,” Darcy added. “I never thought this day would come.”
Currently, state law makes it illegal for a vehicle to be used as human habitation between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. while it’s parked on any roadway, street, highway or other public property.
If approved, Bill 108 would allow people to use their vehicle as a dwelling place from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. within designated areas at county parking lots, according to the draft legislation. County staff or other authorized personnel would monitor the lot from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Vehicles would have to enter from 10 to 11 p.m. and exit between 5 and 6 a.m. Gates to the lot would be locked at 11 p.m. and remain locked until 5 a.m.
Each person within the vehicle would have to register with department staff or authorized personnel when entering the lot. Cooking is prohibited, and all county, state and federal laws, rules and regulations would have to be followed.
Johnson before the vote said that the measure is a temporary response to houselessness. Onsite wrap-around services that would help people transition to better living situations would be offered.