Maui Homeless Offered One-Way Plane Tickets to Mainland
The Hawaiʻi Lodging and Tourism Association will donate a $25,000 grant toward a new project to fly an estimated 120 homeless individuals on Maui back to the mainland.
The non-profit, statewide trade organization will present a check to Kahului’s Family Life Center this weekend as part of its initial neighbor island funding for the repatriation program.
On Oʻahu, the HLTA has a partnership with the Institute for Human Services for a Waikiki Outreach Program and has already relocated 115 homeless individuals from Waikiki to locations outside of the state.
In a phone interview with HLTA President & CEO Mufi Hannemann, he said within the last year, caseworkers in Waikiki have been working with homeless “to put them in a better place.” That includes a number of options including: taking them off the streets; placing them in housing or shelters; or relocating them back to the mainland through the repatriation program.
“Within the last year, we have served 355 homeless individuals in Waikiki,” said Hannemann. “Of that total 254 have been removed from the streets, with another 139 that were placed in housing or shelters, and an additional 115 that were relocated outside of Hawaiʻi through the repatriation program,” he said.
Hannemann said the HLTA spent about $30,000 for the efforts in Waikiki last year. “It’s part of our mission to do homelessness solutions, not just in Waikiki and on Oʻahu, but on the neighbor islands,” said Hannemann who noted that the organization worked with IHS to identify the Family Life Center as a partner on Maui.
Hannemann said the $25,000 grant on Maui could assist a minimum of 120 homeless individuals on Maui with airline relocation. Under the program, the HLTA pays for 1/2 of the airfare, working with IHS to identify a family member or loved one that is willing and can come up with the other half.
“The other part of it is that the homeless person has to want to go back,” said Hannemann, “and we want to provide a safety net to prepare them to readjust and get back into society where they are going to be able to go back to work, and if they have additional needs to be addressed, we want to do that also.”
Hannemann said that the interest came from Maui. He said the HLTA liked that Maui has many direct flights out of Kahului Airport to the mainland. “That’s going to help place these folks as soon as we can on flights to go back to the mainland once we’re able to do the other steps,” he said.
Hannemann said the HLTA agreed with IHS that Maui was the best candidate to come forward because of the services provided by the Maui Family Life Center. “Like IHS, they coordinate with the Maui Police Department; they coordinate with Maui County government and The Salvation Army to field a lot of the Maui referrals for homeless needs,” said Hannemann.
“Through our efforts, homelessness is not just an issue on Oʻahu and Waikiki,” said Hannemann. “It’s a statewide problem, and the sooner we can bring about statewide solutions, the better off we will be.”
Hannemann said that while the initial neighbor island funding is being made available on Maui, plans are to expand the program across the state.
According to the latest 2015 Statewide Point in Time Count compiled by the state Department of Human Services, there are an estimated 1,137 homeless individuals on Maui. That translates to a 12% increase in the homeless population on Maui from year before levels.