US

Honolulu hit with lawsuit filed by ACLU over homeless camp sweeps

  • Kionina Kaneso, left, smiles at her granddaughter Keioleen Helly, right, plays with an antenna outside the structure where they live on a sidewalk on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Honolulu. Kaneso is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union filed Wednesday against the city of Honolulu, claiming city officials deprived homeless people of food and other belongings during raids on encampments. (AP Photo/By Cathy Bussewitz)

    Kionina Kaneso, left, smiles at her granddaughter Keioleen Helly, right, plays with an antenna outside the structure where they live on a sidewalk on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Honolulu. Kaneso is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union filed Wednesday against the city of Honolulu, claiming city officials deprived homeless people of food and other belongings during raids on encampments. (AP Photo/By Cathy Bussewitz)  (The Associated Press)

  • Tabatha Martin, center, talks to the media while holding her 4-year-old daughter, Thalia, as attorney Kristin Holland, left, and Dan Gluck, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union Hawaii, right, listen Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Honolulu. Martin is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit the ACLU filed Wednesday against the city of Honolulu, claiming city officials deprived homeless people of food and other belongings during raids on encampments. (AP Photo/By Cathy Bussewitz)

    Tabatha Martin, center, talks to the media while holding her 4-year-old daughter, Thalia, as attorney Kristin Holland, left, and Dan Gluck, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union Hawaii, right, listen Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Honolulu. Martin is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit the ACLU filed Wednesday against the city of Honolulu, claiming city officials deprived homeless people of food and other belongings during raids on encampments. (AP Photo/By Cathy Bussewitz)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2015 file photo, signs posted in Chuukese and Marshallese announcing the beginning of sidewalk nuisance and stored property enforcement  are posted to a palm tree in Kaka‘ako Park in Honolulu.  Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union say the group will sue Honolulu over the way city officials are clearing out homeless encampments. The attorneys say they plan to file a lawsuit Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

    FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2015 file photo, signs posted in Chuukese and Marshallese announcing the beginning of sidewalk nuisance and stored property enforcement are posted to a palm tree in Kaka‘ako Park in Honolulu. Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union say the group will sue Honolulu over the way city officials are clearing out homeless encampments. The attorneys say they plan to file a lawsuit Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)  (The Associated Press)

Kionina Kaneso doesn't have much in the 18-foot shack on a Honolulu sidewalk she calls home, but she's grateful for her furniture and propane stove. When city crews allegedly threw out her belongings last year during a sweep on a homeless encampment, it hit her and her family hard.

"They throw away my stuff. My food, my drink, my clothes, blankets and my granddaughter's toys," said Kaneso, 58, who lives with her 3-year-old granddaughter in one of the largest homeless encampments in the nation.

Kaneso is part of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Hawaii Wednesday against the city of Honolulu, which claims that city officials deprived homeless people of food and other belongings during raids on encampments.

The attorneys filed the lawsuit on behalf of families who are or were homeless who say they lost medication, identification documents and valuable belongings in the sweeps. The ACLU is seeking a court order to halt future sweeps and compensation for clients whose property has been destroyed.

City crews are planning to enforce the stored property ordinance in a stretch of streets in Kakaako on Thursday, and the lawsuit hasn't changed those plans, city officials said.

"The Department of the Corporation Counsel will defend the city in this lawsuit vigorously," said Donna Leong, Honolulu corporation counsel, in the statement.

The lawsuit involves the stored property ordinance, which requires the city to give 24 hours of notice before seizing property and to store it so people can retrieve belongings for a $200 fee, but the suit says city crews in some instances just threw tents and household goods in the trash.

Several children, identified by just their initials, were listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which says they have gone hungry after city raids where food stored by their parents was thrown out.

"You're talking about a community with almost no access to justice, so we're really happy that the ACLU has taken the time and spent the money to investigate further," said Kathryn Xian, executive director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery.