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Plane trips rejected as homelessness fix

A House committee this week shelved a proposal to fly homeless people back to the mainland, representing the fourth consecutive year the idea has died in the state Legislature.

Between October 2014 and November 2015, the Institute for Human Services teamed up with the Waikiki tourism industry to fly 133 homeless people back to their homes on the mainland at a cost of $28,374, IHS spokesman Kimo Carvalho told the House Human Services Committee on Tuesday.

“I’d say that’s a pretty good return on investment,” Carvalho said. Flying homeless people with mainland roots back home also frees up shelter space for local homeless people, he said. Hawaii has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the nation.

Before leaving the islands, the homeless client first works with social workers to develop a plan to be successful on the mainland. The client must have someone back home to house them, and cannot have pending legal or military issues in Hawaii, Carvalho said.

“To date, no reported individual (sent to the mainland) has returned,” Carvalho told lawmakers. “The demand for this program is statewide — on every island.”

No specific dollar amount was requested to create the so-called “Return-to-Home” pilot program, which would have been funded by the state and run by the Department of Human Services.

DHS opposed creating the pilot program, as did the state’s homeless coordinator, Scott Morishige.

Morishige told the committee that IHS and Waikiki tourism officials have shown they can run an effective program through private funding.

State money, Morishige said, would be better focused on programs that are proven to reduce homelessness, such as Housing First — which places homeless people in rental units while providing them with programs and social workers; and so-called “rapid re-housing” that provides one-time rental assistance to people and families who need financial assistance to get into a home.

In written testimony, Morishige told the committee that “an unintended consequence of this measure may be that other homeless individuals will perceive this program as an invitation to come to Hawaii and receive homeless services here with an expectation that they will receive a ‘free’ return trip.” Also, he said, “Because this service is currently available through the private sector, the establishment of a new government-sponsored program may result in duplication of effort and inefficiencies in program implementation.”

Following the committee hearing, Carvalho told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that he was frustrated that state officials won’t spend money to send more homeless people back to the mainland.

“This is a housing solution that works,” Carvalho said. “It tells me that despite all our efforts to shine a light on these problems, it’s not being taken seriously and it’s business as usual.”

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  • ““It tells me that despite all our efforts to shine a light on these problems, it’s not being taken seriously and it’s business as usual.”” Welcome to Hawaii. Run by democrats.

      • What Morishige meant to say was that tax money could be better spent by funneling it to political patrons like construction companies, unions, and the Aloha United Way, rather than sending the homeless to a place where the cost of living is lower and they have an actual shot at becoming self-sufficient. Re-allocating tax dollars to political patrons is the real goal here, not helping homeless to become self-sufficient. The best things my kids did when they became adults was to move away from Hawaii. I feel sorry for future generations who are stuck here.

  • In my opinion, the overall return on investment (ROI) would be worthwhile. Perhaps carriers (i.e. Hawaiian) could opt to provide some means of humanitarian aid by getting those who to go back home. The vetting process needs to be managed properly. Maybe there should be a process to monitor those who enter Hawaii. In the past (I’m sure it’s still in effect now), Singapore required a return ticket prior to entry into their country.

    PEOPLE …

    • It may not be the “spend”…it could be the revenue (Federal Tax $) the State is subsidized with outweighs the cost of a one-way ticket. Hence, a one way ticket (per the article) would be $210 per return (one time) versus Tax revenue (by the way this is a Tax an not something the State earned income). Running parallel to this we need to somehow institute a non-return to Hawaii.

  • Ya think mainland cities are not noticing this article? Be prepared for more and more homeless folks to be deposited on these islands. Ask any social worker or emergency room employee. This has been going on for years.

      • Agreed. There have been a number of cases of people coming to Hawaii and then becoming homeless, but other states sending people here? A fabrication that some just want to believe.

  • Morishige is protecting his job? Let’s see 133 homeless sent back home and didn’t return but Morishige says the money is better spent REDUCING HOMELESSNESS. Minus 133 homless is reducing the amount of homeless. Morishige is smarter- find housing for then and support them forever because that is money better spent-duhhhh. Please Legisltors, give IHS the money so that it is BETTER SPENT AND SOLVING THE PROBLEM. This article is going to be used by every State as a promotion to get rid of THEIR HOMELESS. Look homeless, go to Hawaii, they want you to come so they can give you housing, they won’t send you home!

        • The private donations actually worked very well. Congrats to IHS on a very good job. I wish they had more money to do this.

    • This article is nothing new. Other states have been doing this for many years. They also send their folks collecting unemployment here since Hawaii’s unemployment payments are higher than their payments are. And oh, by the way they, stick it to Hawaii. There should be a law that denies unemployment payments to folks who are not residents of Hawaii.

  • Maybe Kimo from IHS should bring hearing aids when he speaks before the committee on human services.
    It doesn’t seem that the committee heard a word he said about ” a pretty good return on investment”.

  • Morishige needs to get out on the streets and talk to these chronics from the mainland. Downtown would be a good start. Housing first will not work for chronics. The SA did a story on one lady a few years back showing her new apartment with donations making it look nice. Guess what? The chronic is back on the street urinating and harassing hard working people for money.

  • From today’s headline: “Gov. David Ige wants Aloha United Way to build on its existing efforts to combat homelessness by funneling $5 million of state money throughout the islands over the next year with the goal of immediately helping 1,300 households get off the streets or avoid becoming homeless.”

    So, we can throw $5 mln at United Way, a private organization, to address the homeless issue but the State can’t throw even a fraction of that to another private organization that has a plan with a proven track record THAT WORKS and to the benefit of those they are helping.

    What is wrong with this state?

      • ” the Institute for Human Services teamed up with the Waikiki tourism industry to fly 133 homeless people back to their homes on the mainland at a cost of $28,374″

    • You got it wrong- it’s a $5million investment to ATTRACT THE HOMELESS. AUW can afford housing, food, all sorts of support programs that attract the homeless. According to Morishige it’s money better spent than spending a fraction to really reduce the homeless population

  • When do our government officials realize that they have been pumping more and more money into this problem and IT HAS GOTTEN WORSE! Why can’t they see the correlation that the more money they give to the homeless the bigger the problem gets. Try reversing the thinking, take away all the amenities like welfare, medical, EBT, financial aid for 6 months but offer a plane ticket home and see what happens.

  • With round trip purchases of tickets to Hawaii no return trip deposit is needed. Hold the deposit collected by the airlines for the return trip to be held in escrow, and returned to or credited to the participant when they file their taxes. Consider it a refundable “return to sender option” for those who fail to plan for the future if their stay here is not sustainable through their own means.

  • “Because this service is currently available through the private sector, the establishment of a new government-sponsored program may result in duplication of effort and inefficiencies in program implementation.”

    But I guess that logic doesn’t apply with all the other “work” government employees do that could be or have been done more efficiently and with less cost in the private sector. Because then it would be about the greedy unions…as bad as corporations.

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