Hawaii's Department of Human Services will soon launch an interesting program to reduce the state's homeless population.
The "Return to Home" program looks to cut back on expenditures that fund food, shelter and other services for the 17,000 homeless people living on the islands by buying them a one-way ticket back home.
The three-year pilot program is set to be launched during the current fiscal year and its been allocated $100,000 to fund one-way airline tickets and cruises to return the homeless to the continental U.S.
"The administrative requirements ... are costly and administratively burdensome," department spokeswoman Kayla Rosenfeld said Tuesday. "Provisions include: transportation to the airport, orientation regarding airport security and ensuring proper hygiene. Additionally, if state funds were utilized for the purpose of sending people home, the participants would be required to sign voluntary departure agreements that would need to be recorded in databases"
Rosenfeld added that there are concerns that the program will be seen as "an invitation to purchase a one-way ticket to Hawaii with a guaranteed return flight home."
"Selectively used, it is a way of providing an appropriate solution for people in a particular situation,” Victor Geminiani, executive director of the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, said. “But the devil is in the details.”
Michael Stoops, the director of community organizing for the National Coalition for the Homeless, said "these kinds of programs have been used historically to ship homeless people out of town."
"In the homelessness field it was once called greyhound therapy. Hawaii now goes a step higher with airplane therapy. Oftentimes local police departments run such programs offering the stark choices of going to a shelter, jail or hopping on a bus or plane home," he said.
The "Return to Home" program will be offered to Hawaii's homeless population on a voluntary basis. To be eligible, individuals most show proof that they have a support system in the state they chose to travel to and it can only be used once.