By Wendy Osher
A bill seeking the establishment of a return-to-home program for homeless in Hawai’i is being considered at the state Legislature.
SB385 states that the intent of the program is to ensure that those individuals who find themselves homeless in the islands are able to reconnect with support networks ready and able to receive them.
Under the legislation, the state would provide eligible homeless individuals with assistance in being reunited with family and relatives in the individual’s home state.
The bill states that no individual who is homeless shall be eligible to participate in the return-to-home program unless: (1) The individual’s participation is completely voluntary; (2) The individual has a support system in place that is willing to receive and accommodate the individual in the individual’s home state; (3) The individual, if on parole, probation, or awaiting a court hearing or sentencing, has proper clearance from the court to participate in the program; and (4) The individual is indigent and lacks the financial resources necessary to secure transportation to return to the individual’s home state.
In order to avoid abuse of funds, an individual may participate in the return-to-home program only once and shall sign an agreement to this effect before participating.
The Department of Human Services would be tasked with seeking the participation of local airlines, cruise lines, charter companies, homeless programs, travel agencies, and the visitor industry to coordinate and implement the program.
Under the bill, the department would also be tasked with following up with each individual within one month of their return to their home state, to assess efforts at successful reunification with any family or support system.
The bill proposes to cover program costs and the hiring of necessary staff through general revenue funds from 2013 to 2015.
The Senate Committee on Human Services deferred the measure until 1:30 p.m. today.