Is New York really ‘exporting its homeless to Hawaii,' as a recent article claimed?

Updated: Oct. 29, 2019 at 6:19 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - An article published in the New York Post over the weekend has become quite a talker in the islands.

The headline claims that New York City “secretly exports its homeless to Hawaii” as a part of a government-sponsored relocation program.

But officials with NYC Department of Homeless Services say since launching its Special One-Time Assistance program in 2017, only one person has come to Hawaii.

And Hawaii officials note they have a similar program to relocate homeless people in Hawaii back to support networks and family in other cities.

“I think the headline is rather misleading,” said Connie Mitchell, head of the state’s largest homeless service provider.

She said data on new arrivals coming through Institute for Human Services shelters shows people from all over are finding a way to get the islands ― but on their own.

“Most of the people who we see have actually used their benefits for the month to purchase a one-way ticket to Hawaii," Mtichell said.

Despite rumors, Mitchell’s unaware of any city handing the homeless one-way plane tickets without having some kind of living arrangement set up in advance.

A NYC Department of Homeless Services spokesperson said the Special One-Time Assistance identifies clients who may have support networks, employment or housing elsewhere.

The “city facilitates connections to those housing opportunities," the spokesperson said.

Rental assistance is also provided for up to a year.

Hawaii Lt. Gov. Josh Green wants more proof that the program isn’t being abused. “I really want to get to the bottom of where people are coming from," he said.

He added that 1 in 10 homeless people living on the streets of Hawaii recently got to the islands from somewhere else. That adds up to nearly 1,600 people every year.

“My team will be digging into this program from New York and also we’re going to be talking to mayors from other cities and some governors because I want to make sure there’s not a western migration of homeless coming to Hawaii and we pay $50 million to cover people,” Green said.

Hawaii has an airline relocation program similar to New York’s initiative.

That program is managed by IHS. Over the past three years, Mitchell says it’s sent more than 500 people to new homes in other cities.

“We make sure that there is someone on the other end, family who is actually going to accommodate that person when they arrive so they’re not homeless when they get over to the other side," she said.

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