Five term Hawaiian state Rep. Tom Brower (D) received media spotlight this week for his aggressiveness towards the homeless population in Waikiki. Brower walked the streets of Waikiki smashing homeless peoples’ belongings and shopping carts. Video footage shows Brower sporting an Armani Exchange hat as he roamed working-class neighborhoods with his sledgehammer.
Over the past two weeks, Brower smashed about thirty shopping carts. “If I see shopping carts that I can’t identify, I will destroy them so they can’t be pushed on the streets,” Brower told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. He also roused people who were sleeping in the streets to demand that they relocate. Brower’s goal was to clean the Waikiki’s streets by forcefully removing homeless people and their possessions.
Shopping carts are used by homeless people as storage containers for belongings, and as a tool for mobility. Often mobility is a limited for homeless people. Shopping carts function as a handy and practical mode of transportation for people’s possessions, and are an element of more effectively transporting belongings. Sleeping in the streets is also a facet of homeless reality. Demanding that sleeping homeless people relocate to sleep indoors, and store their shopping carts elsewhere, is unrealistic and oppressive.
Hawaii holds the highest population of people who are homeless in the United States. The state’s Department of Human Services estimates that there are over six thousand people experiencing homelessness across each of Hawaii’s islands in 2013. A portion of Hawaii’s homeless population are sheltered, while others are chronically homeless live in the streets and on the beaches.
Media attention along with emails and phone calls to Brower, forced him to resign from his anti-homeless mission. Brower told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser “it’s time to put down the sledgehammer. The point that I was trying to make has been made.” Brower claimed that his goal was not disgrace people who are homeless, but to clean up the streets.
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