Hawaiian legislators have come up with a creative new approach to the state's costly and ever-expanding homeless population: put them on a one-way flight back to where they came from.
The three-year "Return To Home" pilot initiative (pun intended) is set to launch this year, and lawmakers have invested $100,000 in the program so far. Hawaii's homeless, if approved, will need to be legally accepted into the state or country they choose to return to, and have a decent 'support system' ready to kick off their new lives back home.
Only one free ticket is allocated per homeless person, and they'll have to prove that they don't have the funds available to get back home themselves. (The state will also allow them to get on a boat.)
Unprecedented? No, not really; New York City has been running an identical program for six years, and has spent about half a million dollars — and waved goodbye to 550-plus families — with their Project Reconnect. San Francisco runs a similar, bus-based program for their homeless, and Florida's green-lit an initiative to follow in their footsteps.
Legislators argue that it's a cheaper alternative than housing the homeless in shelters and treating the problem with grass-roots policies. The programs are voluntary, but critics argue that they're a quick fix that do nothing to solve long-term causes of homelessness.
The Hawaiian lawmaker launching the initiative, State Rep. John Mizuno, had been unsuccessfully trying to push it into legislature for three years. Mizuno had taken drastic measures to introduce the bill in the past, including using his own money to send a homeless man back to Seattle, WA to prove how successful the program could be.
Hawaii's homeless population has peaked at 17,000. The initiative as it stands, according to the program's leaders, will help about 10 homeless people a year — so, 30 in total, or just over 2 percent of Hawaii's homeless. Money well spent, guys!