HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A participant in New York's relocation program is disputing a claim that the city is exporting its homeless problem to Hawaii.
The issue came to a head last month when the New York Post published an article that suggested the city was shipping its transient population to the islands and other cities across the nation.
HNN checked the facts and discovered while New York City does have a government-sponsored relocation program ― much like Hawaii’s ― only one family has used it to move to the islands since it launched in 2017.
Now that mother of two wants people to hear her side of the story.
“I got here August 21,” said Tiffany, who asked only to be identified by her first name. “I thought OK. My life over there’s done. I’m starting a new life here.”
The 30-year-old and her kids spent two years in a NYC homeless shelter. Despite working a full time job, the lifelong New Yorker could never find a place in the city she could actually afford.
“I got a city FHEPS voucher to try to find an apartment in New York. But the amount of the voucher and the rent in New York just didn’t coincide,” she said.
She said at that point making the move to Oahu was her best option.
“My cousin, he lives out here. He’s ex-military,” said Tiffany. “He’s also the godfather of my kids.”
It didn’t happen overnight. The verification process took two months.
The program provides a year’s worth of rent paid directly to the landlord.
Tiffany told her case worker she’d be living in Kalihi. But that wasn’t enough. She had to prove it.
“The landlord had to send over her documentation saying that this is her home. How much the rent is. I had to sign a lease," she said.
She also had to have a job lined up before she ever set foot on the island.
“My income has to be 50% of the rent in order for them to say OK,” said Tiffany.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green says he’s glad to finally hear the details of Tiffany’s story.
The Post article led him to investigate New York’s homeless relocation program and he’s still a little skeptical.
“We’re all about reuniting family,” said Green. “In this particular case, it worked out. But I am going to be very vigilant because about 11% of our homeless population does come from the mainland.”
Three months after her arrival, Tiffany says this new life has brought her and her children stability and peace.
“I’m not trying to go back to the same predicament that I was in when I left New York,” she said. “The point of me coming here was to start anew.”
Hawaii has a program similar to New York’s that relocates homeless people back to support networks and families in other cities.