Hawaii to offer homeless one-way ticket back to their home states

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
Yahoo News
As tourists watch the sun go down, a man sleeps near Waikiki Beach, Friday, May 13, 2011 in Honolulu.  Honolulu is currently grappling with one of nation's most serious homeless challenges as the city prepares to host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in November.  Homelessness threatens to mar the perfect picture Hawaii would like to present to those attending APEC.  (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
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A man sleeps near Waikiki Beach as tourists watch the sunset, May 2011. (Marco Garcia/AP)

Aloha!

The state of Hawaii is set to offer homeless people airfare to fly back to their home states.

The controversial "Return to Home" program, set to launch later this year, is an effort by lawmakers to tackle the state's homeless problem. An estimated 17,000 people are homeless in Hawaii, and the three-year, $300,000 pilot program is designed to transport at least some of them back to the U.S. mainland.

Supporters of the initiative say it gives the homeless a chance to get back on their feet in a supportive environment while reducing the state's costs associated with sheltering them.

But not everyone thinks it's a good idea.

"We remain concerned this program is an invitation to purchase a one-way ticket to Hawaii with a guaranteed return flight home," Kayla Rosenfeld, a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, told Hawaii News Now.

"This is not a silver bullet, this does not solve everything," John Mizuno, a state representative who supports the legislation, admitted. "It's fractional, it's not for 5,000 homeless people. It's going to be a handful of homeless people that we send home ... home to their support unit."

Mizuno said he hopes the program will send 100 homeless people home this year.

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