Hawaiʻi Homeless Offered One-Way Flight Under Pending Program

August 1, 2013, 4:32 PM HST · Updated August 1, 4:40 PM
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Kahului Airport. File photo by Wendy Osher.

Kahului Airport. File photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

A three-year pilot program in which homeless would get a one-way ticket out of Hawaiʻi, has drawn national attention, even before being implemented.

The “Return to Home” program is currently subject to review by the state Department of Human Services.

National stories were published online at MSN and Fox News to name a few.

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According to a DHS statement, the department is currently, “engaged in conversations with service providers, businesses and other entities to review how best to serve homeless individuals and families who might qualify or be interested in returning home.”

“Throughout these discussions, some providers have indicated that a program of this nature may best be supported through private donations to individual charities,” the statement said.

According to information released by DHS communications specialist Kayla Rosenfeld, the department will continue to dialogue with the community around the issue.

“At the end of the day, however, we remain concerned this program is an invitation to purchase a one-way ticket to Hawaiʻi with a guaranteed return flight home,” according to the DHS statement.

Department officials described the requirements created by SB515 as “costly” and “administratively burdensome.”  According to the legislation, the pilot program would be established no later than December of 2013.

Provisions reportedly include the following:

  • Assistance in obtaining identification,
  • background checks to determine whether there are outstanding bench warrants, pending trials, or whether the individual is on probation or parole,
  • transportation to the airport,
  • orientation regarding airport security, and
  • ensuring proper hygiene.

DHS officials note that if state funds are utilized for the purpose of sending individuals home, the participants would be required to sign voluntary departure agreements.   This would require that records be kept in a database.

“Given these requirements, and a minimal appropriation of $100,000 for the three-year pilot project, providers are understandably reluctant to take on a state-funded Return to Home program,” the statement said.

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