Target: Joseph Souki, Hawaii State House Speaker and Donna Mercado Kim, Hawaii Senate President
Goal: Ensure a homeless advocacy nonprofit runs the state’s new homeless relocation program.
Hawaii is currently the most expensive state to live in, and that cost comes with a price. The state has a homeless population of 17,000, the highest in the country. To address the issue, Hawaii has approved three years of funding for a trial program called “Return to Home,” which would give homeless a one-way ticket out of the state if they agree to leave and join families on the U.S. mainland voluntarily.
The program, similar to others in places such as New York City and San Francisco, is controversial. One concern of critics is that it is simply a short-term solution to an endemic problem. Another is the potential high cost of administration. Lastly, and potentially most serious, is that the program could be abused by authorities who wish to relocate homeless out of the state.
Michael Stoops of the National Coalition for the Homeless told MSN News that “These kinds of programs have been used historically to ship homeless people out…Oftentimes local police departments run such programs offering the stark choices of going to a shelter, jail or hopping on a bus or plane home.” Stoops believes homeless relocation programs could be improved by allowing nonprofit advocacy organizations to administrate them, and Hawaii Return to Home co-backer Rep. John Mizuno has said he is open to this option. Currently, the state Department of Human Services has responsibility for the program.
Allowing a homeless advocacy organization to run Hawaii’s return to home program is an ideal step. It would help ensure that it would truly assist homeless who have families they wish to return to and curtail abuse. By signing this petition, you will ask the Hawaii State Legislature to approve a measure that would place a homeless nonprofit in charge of Return to Home.
Dear Speaker Souki and Senator Kim,
Recently, Hawaii passed a three-year pilot program called “Return to Home,” designed to address the plight of the state’s 17,000 homeless. As you know, Return to Home allows homeless people in the state to receive a one-way plane ticket to join families on the U.S. mainland. Though the program is designed to help those without roofs over their heads by allowing them to rejoin out-of-state relatives, concerns exist over its potential effectiveness and impact.
The most serious of these is the potential for abuse by authorities. Michael Stoops of the National Coalition of the Homeless has noted to MSN News in July 31 article that “These kinds of programs have been used historically to ship homeless people out…Oftentimes local police departments run such programs offering the stark choices of going to a shelter, jail or hopping on a bus or plane home.” Stoops believes that programs such as Return to Home can be improved by placing a homeless advocacy organization in charge of administration. State Rep. John Mizuno, co-backer of return to home, has stated he is open to such a proposal.
Ensuring a nonprofit agency is in charge of Return to Home would build confidence in the new program’s ability to help those who it is designed to help, without abuse. I ask you to please consider a measure placing return to home under the supervision of advocates of the homeless.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: beautifulcataya via Flickr