Hawaii is launching a controversial $1.3 million initiative to fight its serious homeless challenges, according to Civil Beat. As the state prepares to host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, it plans to buy its homeless residents one-way tickets to the Lower 48.
Created by Hawaii’s Institute for Human Services (IHS), the bill aims to fly 120 homeless people from Waikiki, a tourist-geared neighborhood in Honolulu, to the continental United States. Seemingly, the imitative will also allocate funds for a public relations campaign set to discourage homeless people who live on the mainland from moving to the state—a change many Hawaii natives see as a contradiction to its traditionally hospitable welcome to visitors.
According to Kimo Carvalho, development and community relations manager for IHS, many of Waikiki’s homeless are transient “who made a choice to become homeless” or became homeless shortly after their arrival to the state. He also notes that a glamorized – and inaccurate – portrayal of homelessness in Hawaii has also lured many people to willingly choose the lifestyle, further stating that the rise in the homeless community has become an issue for Waikiki businesses who claim that homelessness in the area hurts tourism.
The measure shadows a similar $100,000-pilot program, “Return to Home,” passed by state legislators last year, which would have also flown homeless residents off the island. However, Governor Neil Abercrombie refused to release funding for the bill, in part out of fear “Return to Home” would motivate travelers to purchase one-way tickets to Hawaii, expecting a guaranteed return flight, according to the Hawaii Reporter.
Though Hawaii’s current initiative to fly homeless residents away from the island is drawing in unwanted attention, Carvalho made clear to Civil Beat that the majority of the $1.3 million is going toward services linking Waikiki’s homeless residents to resources like shelters, housing, employment, and medical resources.
Over the last five years, Hawaii has witnessed a 32 percent hike in its homeless population, the New York Times reported in June. As a result, talks of how to combat the issue have led to heated state debates.
“It’s time to declare a war on homelessness, which is evolving into a crisis in Honolulu,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell, wrote in an essay that appeared in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser in June. “We cannot let homelessness ruin our economy and take over our city.”