HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - People who are homeless in Hawaii have the opportunity to move to the mainland. The Institute of Human Services kicked off its Airline Relocation Program in December. Since then dozens of people who used to live on the streets of Oahu now have permanent housing in other states.
Six months ago Roger Thompson left Honolulu on a flight bound for Plano, Texas. With the help of the Institute of Human Services he was reconnected with his sister and was offered a place to stay.
The veteran spent more than two decades in Hawaii. But when the recession hit he lost his job and his wife. Thompson struggled with addiction and ended up living on the Ala Wai.
"I've dropped the ball many times in my life and I'm very happy that my sister let me and gave me the opportunity to start over," said
Thompson is just one of the 47 people who have successfully used the Airline Relocation Program to find permanent housing including four families. But not everyone is eligible for a plane ticket. Each applicant has to be vetted by a case worker.
"They want to ensure that they are not just shifting homelessness across the county. So they make sure they have a safety net on the receiving end whether it's a family member or a service provider," said Institute of Human Services Community Relations Director Kimo Carvalho.
Thompson's neice told Hawaii News Now she's grateful to have her uncle back in her life. But says the family still has a lot of questions the agency wasn't able to answer.
"Why was he homeless to begin with. There's a whole lot of things we don't know on this side because they didn't tell us," said Ariana Bashford.
Even still, Thompson says the program was life changing.
"I'm spending time with my sister, her husband, my niece, her husband and I'm having the most wonderful time of my life," said Thompson.
The Institute for Human Services says its goal is to help 120 people relocate and get back on their feet on mainland by November. This program was paid for by the hospitality industry in Waikiki.