One of the biggest shelters in Hawaii has secured the funding to start an initiative that will vet the homeless population of Waikiki and ultimately select 120 individuals to be flown elsewhere with one-way plane tickets.
Hawaii’s Institute for Human Services (IHS) officially launched its $1.3 million initiative to fight homelessness this week, and among the facets involved in the effort is a program that will put dozens of people on airplanes in order to relocate them away from the tropical island town.
“We found out that many (Waikiki homeless) are transient who made a choice to become homeless, as well as people who became homeless shortly after arriving in Hawaii,” Kimo Carvalho, development and community relations manager for IHS, told Civil Beat. “We are trying to do an aggressive public relations effort, trying to water down misinformation, basically not making Hawaii be an attractive destination to come and be homeless.”
To accomplish as much, officials behind the multi-pronged program plan on putting around 140 individuals into area shelters during the effort’s first year, while flying another 120 “transient individuals” back to wherever they came from.
Last year, the State Legislature approved $100,000 to be used towards a three-year “Return to Home” program that would have similarly involved purchasing one-way plane tickets for a substantial chunk of the Waikiki homeless population, but Governor Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, refused to release the funds to Department of Human Services reportedly because he feared it would encourage individuals to come to Hawaii with the intent of receiving a free trip home.
IHS Executive Director Connie Mitchell told Hawaii News Now last month that around 500 homeless people presently reside on the streets of Waikiki, a beachfront neighborhood in Honolulu that boasts a total population of around 18,000, according to census statistics from 2013. If the IHS succeeds, then ideally more than half of that figure will be admitted to a shelter or relocated off the island within the next year.
“I think a lot of people may not even know about IHS who are in Waikiki. So it’s really an opportunity for us to just let people know that there is help if they’re looking for help,” Mitchell said.