Hawaii sets aside $100,000 to offer homeless people a one-way ticket home

The Daily Mail
July 31, 2013

Hawaii is hoping to take the burden off its welfare system by saying aloha to its 17,000 homeless residents.

The state will offer one-way tickets home to any eligible homeless person to anywhere in the continental United States.

Hawaii has allotted $100,000 for a three year trial run of the so-called ‘return-to-home’ program, which could also even offer participants beds on cruise ships bound for their homes.

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Comment by Nobody Will Observe on August 1, 2013 at 3:23am

I had an old black dude from Compton get rude with my wife the other night. I ask, How does a homeless man from Compton end up in Waikiki???

Comment by Nobody Will Observe on August 1, 2013 at 3:18am

But if other States are dumping their problem on Hawaii, that's not good

Comment by Nobody Will Observe on August 1, 2013 at 3:17am
Comment by Nobody Will Observe on August 1, 2013 at 3:17am

I agree Scotty

Comment by scotty michele brown on July 31, 2013 at 5:39pm

Your second report sheds new light on the matter. We have a shelter in my town(about 6 blocks from me) It is in a large building that used to be a church. The residents have to do chores in the home and/or work in the mission thrift shop. They are helped to find a job, and then pay inexpensive rent to stay until they can move out. I have always felt that if people are in need of charity and able to work for it, they should have to.

Comment by Nobody Will Observe on July 31, 2013 at 5:33pm
Comment by Nobody Will Observe on July 31, 2013 at 5:28pm

Perhaps but if your going to be homeless, which would you prefer?

http://i.huffpost.com/gen/982494/thumbs/o-NEW-YORK-HOMELESS-NEMO-facebook.jpg OR

http://shedexpedition.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Honolulu_Waikiki_Beach.jpg

Comment by scotty michele brown on July 31, 2013 at 5:20pm

That might work. If a person went to Hawaii and their job fell through or some other tragedy, they might not have money to go back home.

Comment by Nobody Will Observe on July 31, 2013 at 5:13pm

A tourist in Hawaii spends an average of $200 a day for a hotel room, meals and entertainment. But there's another class of visitors given room and board, full health care benefits and more for just $3 a day. It's not a luxury vacation package — just homeless benefits courtesy of Hawaii's taxpayers.

At the Sumner Homeless Men's Shelter in downtown Honolulu — less than a mile from Honolulu Harbor, where luxury cruise ships are docked — shelter operations assistant Alfred Ho'opi'i tells guests to line up for their lunch.

"The majority of people that I can see here are from the mainland," he says. "You have your locals, but not too many."

The meal is chopped beef steak with vegetables, mashed potatoes, bread, a fresh apple and cake. Ho'opi'i and his volunteers serve from 750 to 900 meals a day at the three shelters operated by the nonprofit Institute for Human Services.

The shelters' resident population has increased 10 percent in the past year, and one-third of all the guests — 1,300 annually — come from out of state.

Gary Phillips purchased a $400 airline ticket to Hawaii three months ago. He was homeless in San Diego for years, but is now earning cash from Hawaii's 5-cent redemption program for plastic bottles and aluminum cans.

"I recycle here," he says. "I make money doing that." Some days, over $40, he says.

And he sleeps at the IHS shelter for $3 a day, with three free meals, $200 worth of food stamps and the state's free health care program.

"I went to the dentist today, and I had a tooth pulled," Phillips says. "It cost me nothing."

The shelter's annual operating budget of $2 million is funded largely by state taxpayers. Connie Mitchell is executive director. She says 28 percent of her shelter and food budget is spent on new arrivals from the mainland.

"We are a tourist destination that attracts people who are homeless or people who have resources, and that's something that we really can't control," Mitchell says. "But I think that if people do want to take up that particular lifestyle, that it shouldn't be at the public's expense."

Meanwhile, Hawaiian taxpayers face a $1.2 billion budget deficit, which is being addressed in part with deferred state tax refunds and deferred Medicaid reimbursements.

Honolulu's homeless demographic — on the streets and in shelters — is changing. The University of Hawaii's Center on the Family estimates the city's homeless street population has shifted from being 21 percent Caucasian in 2005 to more than 43 percent today.

Many are single, middle-aged men from the mainland, like former computer programmer Gary Titleman.

"Well, I was kind of homeless in Flagstaff and Prescott [Arizona], and a guy told me that you could go to Hawaii for $150, so I had some savings and bought a ticket," he says.

He chooses to work odd jobs at minimum wage. Soon it will be time to move on.

"Well, I may go to Alaska during the summer," he said. "Also go back to the mainland. I'm originally from Virginia, but I moved out West a while back. So who knows?"

Connie Mitchell says the resource drain caused by newly arrived single male transients is getting more acute. She says Hawaiian lawmakers need to develop policies to address this problem.

"I think that we really need to begin to look at who's really homeless — not by choice and by misfortune — and who's really homeless by choice, and have a different solution for the two different populations."

Wayne Yoshioka reports for member station KHPR in Honolulu.

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