The Aloha State is saying goodbye to some of its homeless residents with one-way tickets to the Lower 48.
According to Civil Beat, Hawaii's Institute for Human Services (IHS) is launching a $1.3 million initiative to fight homelessness, but parts of the plan have raised some eyebrows. The state is aiming to fly 120 homeless people living in Waikiki, a tourist hotspot in Honolulu, back to the continental U.S., while also allocating funds for a public relations campaign discouraging homeless people living on the mainland from moving to the state -- a move some say contradicts Hawaii's usual warm welcome to visitors.
"We found out that many (Waikiki homeless) are transient who made a choice to become homeless, as well as people who became homeless shortly after arriving in Hawaii," Kimo Carvalho, development and community relations manager for IHS, told Civil Beat. He noted a glamorized and inaccurate depiction of homelessness in Hawaii has enticed many individuals to choose that lifestyle over other options, causing problems for Waikiki businesses that have argued homelessness in the area hurts tourism.
The initiative follows a similar $100,000-pilot program, "Return to Home," passed by state legislators last year that would have flown homeless residents off the island. Governor Neil Abercrombie, however, had refused to release funding for the plan, in part out of fear "Return to Home" would encourage travelers to purchase one-way tickets to Hawaii with the expectation of a guaranteed return flight, according to the Hawaii Reporter.
While Hawaii's more recent initiative flying homeless residents away is drawing attention to the plan, Carvalho pointed out to Civil Beat that the majority of the $1.3 million is going toward services connecting Waikiki's homeless residents to resources like shelters, housing, employment and medical resources.
The ongoing debate on how best to fight homelessness has heated up recently in Hawaii, as the state witnessed a 32 percent hike in its homeless population over the last five years, the New York Times reported in June.
"It’s time to declare a war on homelessness, which is evolving into a crisis in Honolulu," Mayor Kirk Caldwell, wrote in an essay that appeared in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser in June, The New York Times reported. "We cannot let homelessness ruin our economy and take over our city."
H/T Think Progress