Above: a man sleeps on the sidewalk along the Bayfront shops in Downtown Hilo. A state representative is questioning the governor’s failure to use money appropriated by law to fly Hawaii’s homeless back to the mainland.
HONOLULU, Hawaii – A Hawaii state representative is calling on the governor to implement an initiative to provide one-way airfare tickets for eligible homeless currently living on the streets of the Aloha State.
Representative Rida Cabanilla (Oahu) urged Governor Neil Abercrombie to put Act 222 – the ‘Return to Home’ pilot program – into action, using the $100,000 appropriated to help “eligible homeless individuals to return home to their families on the mainland”. The program was signed into law on June 2013 after approval by the state legislature (Senate Bill 515). However, the office of Rep. Cabanilla says the Department of Human Services has declined to establish and administer the program.
According to the State House of Representatives media release:
The intent of the program would reduce the ever growing problem of homelessness in Hawaii and ensure that individuals who find themselves homeless in the islands are able to reconnect with family and support networks where they would have the opportunity to recover. Additionally, the program would possibly further save Hawaii taxpayers millions of dollars in welfare costs that would have been spent on homeless individuals who have traveled to live in the state.Office of Rep. Rida Cabanilla
When Senate Bill 515 made its way through committee in 2013, the Department of Human Services raised concerns with the “Return to Home” program.
… the Department has reservations about the cost implications and impact this program may have on the priorities in the Executive Biennium Budget. DHS also has concerns about the prescriptive language of the services to be provided, liability related to the requirement to obtain sufficient identification to enable travel, the costs associated with the acquisition of identification which can, in some cases, be a burdensome procedure requiring the assistance of legal counsel, and the need to verify the individual’s arrest, parole, or probation status and ensure proper clearance to leave the State as this may require extensive interaction with a variety of law enforcement agencies, public defenders, prosecuting attorneys, and others. Finally, the DHS takes exception to the suggestion that homeless persons are in need of “sufficient personal hygiene”, as an unnecessary and inappropriate stereotype.
In short, the HPO does not have the staffing or fiscal resources to administer this program. Providing transportation for a homeless individual back to their home state will not guarantee that the individual will not return to Hawaii and again become a consumer of homeless or other services in our state. The provisions of this bill may also be seen by those who might exploit it, as an invitation to come to Hawaii and partake of homeless services here, with an expectation that they will receive a free trip home.Hawaii Dept. of Human Service, April 1, 2013 testimony
Its been a year since the governor signed the bill into law, and Rep. Cabanilla is speaking up:
The Governor has not released the $100,000 that was appropriated in the 2013 state budget for the ‘Return to Home’ program for the homeless. This appropriation is much needed to decrease the homeless population in our state, to return these stranded homeless individuals from the mainland to an environment of their choosing, and most importantly to preserve these funds for our own homeless kamaaina. Let us implore the Governor to release the money and create the program.”Representative Rida Cabanilla