New program helps homeless veteran reunite with family on mainla - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

New program helps homeless veteran reunite with family on mainland

Roger Thompson Roger Thompson
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

He has only one, small carry-on bag. In almost 25 years in Hawaii, Roger Thompson will be leaving the Aloha state with only a few outfits and a pair of slippers.

The homeless veteran is taking a one-way flight back to the mainland, taking advantage of a program through the Institute for Human Services.

"I'm so excited," he says, as he walks past the bunk beds at the men's shelter in Iwilei.

Thompson came to Hawaii and had a steady job. He worked in the film industry for many years but when the recession hit, he lost that job and turned to alcohol. He got divorced and addiction eventually led to him losing his savings and his apartment. He became homeless, sleeping along the Ala Wai.

But when he got an infection from the Ala Wai earlier this year, the hospital referred him to IHS.

"When he came here, it was suggested to him that maybe he wanted to connect with his family," says Connie Mitchell, the Executive Director at IHS, "His sister was happy to hear from him."

So happy, Thompson's sister agreed to pay for the one-way ticket to Texas.

Thompson is the first to use IHS' relocation program.

"It really isn't about shipping people off island, it's about reuniting people with a network of support that really is where they need to be," says Mitchell.

The program is supported by Waikiki businesses. About $35,000 has been provided for the next year to help purchase tickets for the homeless who can prove that family will help them.

"Now we have resources to help people do if quicker, making more room in our shelter," says Mitchell.

Thompson says he did not contact his family after he became homeless, because he was embarrassed and didn't want to be a burden on them, but he thought of them often. If IHS didn't prompt him to try, he wouldn't have done it.

Thompson has four siblings, he will live with his older sister in Plano, a suburb of Dallas.

"Very happy," he says, "It's nice to know that all of my siblings and family (are) supportive."

Thompson got a haircut earlier in the week, and go donated clothes and jackets for his trip.

Three hours before his flight, he eats lunch with the other homeless men in the shelter and 'talks story' for about 20 minutes before heading to the airport.

"I'm going to miss Hawaii because I really love it," says Thompson, "I made some bad decisions, which I accept responsibility for all the way," but he says he is anxious for a new start.

He rolls the one, small suitcase through the Honolulu International Airport, after checking in for his flight.

He's expected to be in Texas about 5 o'clock Christmas morning. His sister will be there to pick him up.

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