Hawaii Offers Homeless One-Way Tickets Out of State

The controversial tactic has been tried -- and vocally criticized -- elsewhere

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H. Armstrong Roberts / Getty Images

UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1960s: Hula girls dancing in front of palm trees, Hawaii.

Hawaii will become the latest place in the U.S. to offer one-way plane tickets to homeless people, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat. Last week, legislators voted to allocate $100,000 to fund a pilot “return to home” program run by the state’s Department of Human Services that will set aside seats on airplanes — and possibly cruise ships — for homeless people seeking a way to return to loved ones in other states.

To qualify for the trial, participants must complete a background check, be mentally sound, and have what the bill calls “sufficient personal hygiene.” The program is voluntary, and homeless individuals can only enroll in it once.

(MORE: A Homeless Man and His BlackBerry)

Supporters say sending homeless people back to their friends and relatives will enable them to get back on their feet in a more supportive environment. It’s also an effort to reduce the number of homeless people in the state, which is estimated at 17,000, the Honolulu Civil Beat reports.

But critics — who include the very people charged with running the Hawaii initiative — argue that the program does not have nearly enough funding to solve the state’s homelessness problem. Others say the offer could be easily abused. “At the end of the day, however, we remain concerned this program is an invitation to purchase a one-way ticket to Hawaii with a guaranteed return flight home,” Kayla Rosenfeld, the spokesperson for the state’s Department of Human Services, said in a statement recently. Local pols like Rep. John Mizuno told Hawaii News Now that just sending a “handful” of homeless people home for a little while would still help the state save money on food, shelter, and medical costs.

(MORE: Homeless Soccer Takes Over Times Square)

New York City, Baton Rouge and San Francisco have all tried similar programs. New York City implemented its version in 2007, flying more than 550 homeless people back to their families in places like Paris, Orlando, and San Juan (the most popular destination), according to a 2009 article in the New York Times. Homeless advocates vehemently opposed the scheme. “What we’re doing is passing the problem of homelessness to another city,” Arnold S. Cohen, CEO of Partnership for the Homeless, told the Times. “We’re taking people from a shelter bed here to the living room couch of another family. Essentially, this family is still homeless.”

More recently, Baton Rouge’s city council approved a plan in June to provide free bus rides to eligible homeless people run by the city’s police department, Think Progress reports. (Its original name was “Clean Sweep,” but to avoid comparing people living on the street to bags of garbage, the program has been renamed “HOPE” for “Homeless Outreach Prevention Efforts,” according to the Advocate.) But local advocates for the homeless have expressed concern that busy officers won’t have time to follow-up with participants and check their progress.

To avoid similar problems in Hawaii, Mizuno has said he would consider shifting control of the “return-to-home” program to non-profits that have experience working with the homeless. Until then, state officials promise to follow-up with participants a month after they move to make sure they’re doing well in their new homes.

MORE: Stars Who Were Once Homeless

120 comments
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khare

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KareReno
KareReno

Obviously the people who put this together have 1) never been homeless 2) never struggled financially 3) are out of touch with what goes on in the real world 4) are horrible leaders because they don't bother to "fix" a problem just put it off on someone else and thus never solving jack diddly squat.


when someone sends away struggling people in their community they are saying we only want "our kind" here go somewhere else. Hello dumb-ass they belong in your community, they need "help" and some need some tough love but not "dealing" with unfortunate people isn't the answer. Helping them help themselves is. I've been homeless before, and also in the system (welfare, section 8) that was 25yrs ago. I got HELP and I'm not in the system for many many years, I work for myself.

shaundasheepp
shaundasheepp

They only pay for ticket to haoles to go to the mainland, not for the sizeable amount of orientals who are also freeloaders.

GalacticCannibal
GalacticCannibal

So the United States of American  and so called "land of the free and home of the brave"" will spend $trillions  dollars attacking countries like IRAQ who did not attack the USA . Waging war on their people and killing tens thousands of them. But back in our own American backyard we will not provide for American homeless, who may be demented or hit hard times through no fault of their own. Many are ex military who lost it all. It makes me vomit when I think of the hypocrisy of our politicians and the greed of our CEO's in our capitalist/consumerism  (who are paid multi million dollar yearly pay checks while sending our manufacturing to communist CHINA). This Hawaiian homeless program like all the others before it  is an insult to homeless Americans.  But why be surprised when greed and hypocrisy rule the so called Land of the free etc etc....

JScibilly
JScibilly

As an actual resident of Hawaii I think this is a fantastic idea and those that are pointing out about how it didn't work in other states are really overlooking the obvious: Hawaii is an cluster of ISLANDS. We have a ridiculously high cost of living here and many people that really WANT to leave CANNOT because they are spending all their income just to survive. On the mainland one could simply hitchhike or take a train or bus out of state and that is not an option here. I have known people that have spent their entire lives in Hawaii simply because airfare is too expensive, and they were 'middle class' families with homes and jobs. My own family has often had to move houses several times due to the rise in rent and general cost of living. In fact the only reason we are living in the house we currently have is because it is owned by a friend of the family who gave us a good deal on rent. Rent in Hawaii costs a bare MINIMUM of $1,500 a month and if you are lucky you can find a studio apartment for $1000 a month. The rise in price however does in fact make sense from a practical view, as islands really only have a very limited amount of space. Space that is in high demand for not only housing but for ecological groups as well as we have a very fragile and precious ecosystem with many native plant and animal species that have already become extinct due to not only the introduction of invasive species but the expansion of farms and housing. In conclusion it is a very good thing as it will give people a better chance at getting a home someplace CHEAPER than here.

annapink
annapink

@JScibilly Renting an apartment for 1500 or even 1000 is much cheaper  there, where you are,  than in New York, even in Philadelphia where I live the apartments go for that much

Gibborim
Gibborim

I read the story above, and many of the comments below. As a conservative, with a genuine belief in God and His hope for us to have a heart for the meek.. I actually find myself torn on this topic. I do agree, it doesn't seem fair for one state to dish their problems on another state. I'm pretty sure there was a study that showed most homeless people are very depressed humans who have become physiologically incapacitated and truly are incapable of being in a social setting, or even working for that matter. My conservative side tells me to shovel them up and cast them into a dungeon. My philosophical side tries to be more considerate, but hasn't an idea what to do with them. Maybe we should choose one super liberal and historically lazy state, and allow it to be Obamaland. Populate this place with the siphons of govt. welfare and give them their own socialist cesspool ... (I can't believe I just wrote that). I can tell you... I'm the guy who always gives money to these people... At the end of the day, I know I'm super lucky, super blessed... You have to share... Grrrrr.. I hate being a bleeding heart... But I can't coexist with myself if I'm a heartless SB. Ideas?

shaundasheepp
shaundasheepp

You did not say if you are a Christian. Sorry but a true Christian could never be a Republican. So there I made it easier for your fuzzy heart to sleep tonite. Embrace what you are; a christian you are not.

DanielStoner
DanielStoner

So wait - if you're dirty enough, or crazy, they won't put you on a place - they want to make sure and keep the nastiest and craziest ones.... good call.

renshenfengwangjian1
renshenfengwangjian1

My late sister was a social worker in California in the 1970's. Part of her job was returning homeless and unemployed people back to the state of Texas after these people had been given Greyhound bus tickets from Texas with the advise, "The Welfare is better in California." The state of California paid the return fares home.

valentine.godoflove
valentine.godoflove

THE SIGHT OF UN-SIGHTLY HOMELESS PEOPLE.....IS A TURN-OFF TO TOURISTS.....HAWAIII AND OTHR STATES WILL SUFFER DOLLAR LOSES IF THERE ARE A LOT OF HOMELESS PEOPLE IN THEIR CITIES.....MAY GOD FORGIVE ME....THERE SHOULD BE A SOLUTION TO THIS FOREGOING PROBLEM.....

VALENTINE, COMEDIAN, LOL

vrome
vrome

In the United States of America, far too often poverty is a CHOICE.  Or it's a series of choices made by an individual to make a themselves become poor and later made to keep themselves impoverished.  I believe we should honor their decision to be who they are by not attempting to help them become who they aren't, because you can't change anybody, and any attempts to do so will only fail and leave you feeling frustrated.

LogicSpeaks
LogicSpeaks

@vrome @KevinBarbieux I find it interesting how the general belief that the reason people are poor or homeless is due to choice, and not lack of opportunity, lack of education, terrible neighborhoods, and so forth.  I think Fox News anchors have expressed this belief more than a few times.  Now Vrome for some odd reason believes it.  Maybe its because he saw some liberal hippy do it a few times, and now believes that every homeless is a vagrant.



KevinBarbieux
KevinBarbieux

@vromeWow vrome, you display the classic symptoms of a psychopath, you struggle so hard to justify your lack of empathy.

vrome
vrome

@KevinBarbieux @vrome Wow! You are casting a negative label at me because you can't refute the focus of my comments.  Ok, I accept your resorting to name calling as a clear indication that my points are truly valid in your eyes.

r0b
r0b

@vrome I will take a minute to respond in the slightly misguided hope you, or someone reading, might broaden their world-view.

People have all sorts of circumstances and some are poor choices. Some are just unfortunate luck (worse still if it was some else's bad choice that you had no part in, like a drunk driver).

The point of a socially enlightened society is to realize that although there are some people who do not strive to succeed; there are some who never had the support system to allow them the opportunity to try harder. There is an average to everything so some are good and some bad.

You have to decide as a society that there is a certain level of living-standard by everyone that is required for us all to enjoy the surroundings we desire (We don't like seeing people along our pretty rivers living in tents and taking a dump).

Everything comes with costs and though I don't like being taxed, I like my house being broken into less so I pay taxes for police and services to protect the public from large scale misfortune that would endanger my lifestyle.

Quoting Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society, including the chance to insure."

I've been a democrat as a child, a republican as an young-adult, and now a democrat-realist...It doesn't have to be a party issue to see that we all need protection from life's extreme up-and-down. Not total protection, but a cushion to keep us from falling into the streets as a beggar in one year.

laurel.smith83
laurel.smith83

@vrome 

Oddly, your comments have all the tonal range of someone suffering from severe, chronic depression... things are horrible, people never change (the way I want them to), any plan I make is doomed to fail so doing anything will only depress me more. 

Problem solved. 

But your life is probably great, because your strong character motivated you to make the right choices, we can assume. 

Makes perfect sense to me that you don't see the problem.

laurel.smith83
laurel.smith83

@vrome 

also, your comment about homeless using "the VAST infrastructure of social utilities that are already available so that they can regain some self-respect" is really laughable, in view of the judgement you yourself show so clearly. 

It takes character to weather the stigma of simply asking for help - there's a stigma for that, too. 

My own friend whose HUSBAND does work and does make good choices complains often and loudly about having to pay anything at all for social services. It took them 6 years to dig themselves out of the hole they made in their own retirement by mortgaging their $600K home to the tune of 400K - they did that with the help of an inheritance. Do you think she ever stopped buying her Chanel foundation at the department store? and I seem to remember she had the scratch to pay for botox and a few other procedures.

And do you think I will ever tell her that I had to use Medi-Cal for two surgeries while I was unemployed and without a car? She's my friend and she she loves me, so I look just as high-functioning to her as she believes she is! But I guess if I had a better character, and all, I'd also have a job, a car and better friends in my support system.


Really none of your business how and why people need help - if you care, you can help. And if you're not qualified to help (by virtue of your not caring) try not to contribute towards stigmatizing people you know nothing about.


ShundrekaMimsRandolph
ShundrekaMimsRandolph

@vromeseriously? Every heard of generational poverty? Worse than Mitt Romney's comment to borrow money from a parent top open a business or go to college...

kerrblur989
kerrblur989

No other place in the entire united states (maybe except alaska) is like our place here in hawaii.  This is a place of respect despite who you are as a person.  You have the benefit of living in the united states and its democracy and dollar Yet the way of life here is totally different which is why I was raised here.  to be shielded from the outside world of violence, religious fighting and politics.  Aloha is a way of life not just a word.  And  of course I feel bad for the delinquent few who come wishing to except a better life but of course i believe if you treat the island right, the island will reward you well.


NoKaOi
NoKaOi

I agree with MaryDerricotte there has been a recent surge of guys panhandling on the streets, all white, and you can tell by their dress that they are not from Hawaii.  Some other states are sending their homeless to Hawaii probably thinking they are being kind because winters are mild. 

bmarkmain
bmarkmain

I knew we should not have let them join the Union.  What NERVE.  One more State to add to the boycott, now Florida and Hawaii.

BillyAkane
BillyAkane

@bmarkmain perhaps you are not aware that some states were sending their homeless to Hawaii to get rid of them. I hope all the homeless take up the offer and move to your town. 

kerrblur989
kerrblur989

I am a maui resident, and I too used to be homeless but worked 40 hours a week sometimes more. and now I own my own condo, got a nice car and have a beautiful girlfriend.  ALOT of people whom you think are homeless are actually working hard but just camping out because the cost of living here is jacked by the super rich building on this sacred land.  Its a shame.  Thoughs of you who do not know this land we call the 50th state is only a state on paper.   This is nothing like the united states.  its truly a peaceful place and a lot of the homeless I know work hard to get out of a sticky situation.  And a lot of this is the cause of the rich destroying the way of life here.  mahalo nui loa


NO KA OI maui

vrome
vrome

@kerrblur989  Thanks for sharing your experience.  I'm sure many readers will find some value in your observations. But in relation to your comments, my previous statements may seem harsh or insensitive.   However, I am simply addressing the focus of the article.  That article pertained to the State of Hawaii's plan to deal with the specific problem of the homeless who are NOT from Hawaii but have relocated there and now pose a burden to the people of the State.  It is that plan that my comments are directed toward.  I hope I didn't offend anyone.

IekiKanoaNahele
IekiKanoaNahele

@kerrblur989 So true. The rich have messed the islands up so much. Every time I see new buildings I am so sad. Great job turning your life around. I wish everyone would respect these sacred islands and see their true value is best kept unspoiled.

vrome
vrome

Oh for Pete's sake!  Let's be real here.  If these homeless people really had "loved ones" and a "support system" elsewhere, all you would need to do is to provide a phone for them to call home collect and ask a "loved one" to wire them some money so they can get a plane ticket to return to the mainland, get a job and eventually get  their own place.  That won't happen because, as a general rule, the homeless are homeless for very good reasons--such as mental illness, substance dependence, mental retardation, physical disabilities, poor work and education backgrounds or serious character flaws.  Their problems didn't start overnight when they arrived in Hawaii.  They have had longstanding problems with being irresponsible (perhaps through no fault of their own)  and have used up all sympathy and support they could get  from their family members, friends, acquaintances, church members, school mates, neighbors, community members, coworkers, social service workers, etc. and then they chose move on to manipulate, lie, cheat and steal from others who don't know them. 

Responsible people have lots of resources to weather even the longest hardships.  There's unemployment benefits, savings, lines of credit, revolving credit cards, good interpersonal skills, strong employablity, deep friendships, neighbors that know one's character and would be willing to do anything for them and family members who don't feel used and would gladly help their own relatives.  Responsible people wouldn't need the state of Hawaii to provide a ticket.  But many of these transplanted homeless Hawaiians are simply seeking a ticket to somewhere else because their welcome in Hawaii has been used up and they want to go elsewhere to continue to use, manipulate, lie, cheat and steal from others that don't know them.  Hawaii has now instituted a policy to "enable" them to stay irresponsible, but elsewhere.  I can assure you, their "loved ones" back home really don't want them to back, or they would have found some way to help them come back "home".

KevinBarbieux
KevinBarbieux

@vrome Obviously you've put a lot of thought into this issue, but you're still just an armchair quarterback.   You have no idea what's really happening down on the field of homelessness.   You don't really know the cause and effect, the actually motivation of homeless people, so you just make up stuff and spout it like you're an authority.    Wouldn't life be grand if everything was as simple as whether or not a person was "responsible"?  Nice try, but no cigar.

vrome
vrome

@KevinBarbieux @vrome Truth hurts huh!  But please note, it's perfectly ok for you to stay in denial.  It doesn't change anything and it certainly doesn't make any homeless person's life any better for you to distort reality.

KevinBarbieux
KevinBarbieux

@vrome @KevinBarbieux Hi Vrome, you could just google my name and see that I have a bit of experience with homelessness, both as being a formerly homeless person, and as being a homeless advocate for the past 10 years.   I've done more than my share of helping people get off the streets.  One thing I know for certain is that your perspective on homelessness is wrong, and certainly hasn't helped anyone overcome homelessness.

vrome
vrome

@KevinBarbieux @vrome  Oh please.  Being a past failure doesn't make you a current expert.  But it certainly explains your investment in denial.  

Homeless adults make decisions that lead them down paths to be homeless.  It is a choice.  And as such, we should respect their choice to be homeless.  If they get tired of the hardships of being homeless, they will utilize the VAST infrastructure of social utilities that are already available so that they can regain some self-respect and be a contributing member of society.  But that choice is theirs alone to make, when, and if they ever decide to do so.

suzybee
suzybee

A better way would be to feed the homeless in Hawaii with only stale bread and water.  They'll leave on their own.

KevinBarbieux
KevinBarbieux

@suzybee   You can't make homelessness anymore a miserable state than it already is.  Taking away what little the homeless do have only works to make it harder for the homeless to get off the streets.

SkipperSam
SkipperSam

I know Los Angeles did this in the mid 1980's with a bus voucher $ 50.00 in cash and $ 160.00 in food stamps

if you left the state.

AshleyBarnes
AshleyBarnes

First, despite what Mary says, the homeless are not all white by a long shot.  Hawai'i has a homelessness problem that encompasses all races.  A simple check of recent news stories would show that.  But this program is clearly aimed at the white homeless in Hawai'i.  Let's face it, a homeless or nearly homeless person on the mainland struggles to find a safe, warm and dry place to sleep.  So, if they can, they come to Hawai'i where they can make their home on the beach in a makeshift shelter.  The culture is one that, if not exactly embracing of this sort of behavior, at least tolerates it and expressly condemns authority that tries to tell someone where they can and can't sleep.  So, Hawai'i is an ideal place to be homeless.  Outside of Waikiki, the homeless are given far more consideration that the tourists.  So why would they leave?  This program will fail.

JamieCollins
JamieCollins

I wish OHIO would offer me a 1 one way plane ticket "home" to hawaii...