Plan for homeless raises concerns with state and IHS

Published: Feb. 11, 2013 at 12:20 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow)- According to the 2012 Point-in-Time Count, there are nearly 6,300 homeless across the state.

A proposed house bill would establish a program that helps those not from Hawaii return to their home state and reconnect with their family.

State Representative Rida Cabanilla is proposing House Bill 533, which establishes the 'Return-to-Home' program and is seeking $100,000 in appropriations to fund the endeavor.

"It's (the program) only for select individuals that can really benefit from the program, meaning they have support services, they want to go home, but they can't go home," Cabanilla said. "That sort of stuff."

Under the bill, participants would receive financial assistance to pay for their transportation and there will also be follow-up to make sure they have a stable support system.

State homeless coordinator Colin Kippen says the program is well intentioned, but thinks it can't work logistically, in terms of cost and consequences.

"We are also supposed to warrant that there's someone there that's going to get them at the other end," Kippen said. "What if they get there and circumstances have changed?  Do they know have a right against the state of Hawaii for a return ticket back? I mean, these are the kinds of practical considerations."

If approved, the program would be contracted out by the state.  The Institute for Human Services says it wouldn't take it on and thinks too many people would take advantage.

"We already get a lot of inquiry about wanting help to go back to the mainland and I think that, while we really support people returning to the place of meaningful tie for themselves, it really isn't something I believe taxpayers need to support," said Connie Mitchell, IHS executive director.

The proposal will be heard Tuesday by the state House Committee on Human Services. If the bill is passed, it would take effect this July.

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