HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Seven years ago, Steve Simpson bought a plane ticket to paradise. He is one of hundreds of homeless people from out of town.
"The economy not doing so well, it drives a lot of people outdoors into cold weather. And they figure, well, kind of what I thought seven years ago, 'If this continues I'm going to where the weather's better because it's possible for outdoor living,'" he said.
Simpson, a California native, knows the other homeless in Kapiolani Park and where they are from.
"Usually the cold places. Washington. There's a guy here from Ohio I've met recently," he said.
The University of Hawaii's "Homeless Service Utilization Report" says up to 1,800 surveyed at homeless shelters said they came to Hawaii in the last five years. Of that number, 615 said they arrived between July 2013 and June of this year. That still only accounts for 6-percent of the total number of homeless people on Hawaii's streets.
But the Institute for Human Services said the survey doesn't count rural homeless.
"And what we feel. And what see. And what we experience. And frankly what we know is that that number is fairly low," IHS clinical director Jerry Coffey said.
State Homeless Coordinator Colin Kippen can't say how much more the state can bear.
"The fair question to ask is, 'What are we doing to really reduce that number?' Because whether they were here or not, we already have a huge number of homeless individuals here," he said.
"I decided to disappear from where everybody knew me," Simpson said.
He said he has never met a homeless person here who was given a one-way plane ticket from another city. But he likes the idea of Hawaii sending some homeless back to the mainland.
"If it gets rid of the riff-raft and the slanderers, then I say to us people who live indigently, I say 'Great!'" he said.
Simpson is 42. He was also on the streets before he came here. He prefers to call his lifestyle an extended camping trip.