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Hawaii homeless won’t be flying to Seattle anytime soon

A man sleeps on the ground near Waikiki Beach, in Honolulu. State lawmakers are struggling with the visible problem of homelessness in tourist areas and some have proposed a contentious idea to use state money to fly the homeless back to wherever they came from. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia, File)

The story that Hawaii’s legislature approved a program giving homeless people one-way plane tickets to mainland cities, including Seattle, caused quite a national stir last week.

It’s a program called “Return to Home,” which has been under consideration for years in the state legislature, and reporter Nathan Eagle of the Honolulu Civil Beat, who broke the news, says it is still the buzz of the Islands.

“The program is aimed at uniting homeless folks here, in particularly the chronically homeless, people who have been homeless for a year or longer, with their families back home.”

The program is entirely voluntary, Eagle explains, and that is the big issue right now.

“The Department of Human Services, which is tasked with implementing this program, has no interest in it. It’s testified against it year after year,” says Eagle. “I was speaking with them just the other day and as best I can tell, they have no intent to actually implement this program.”

While some people who are homeless save up to get to the nice weather in Hawaii, for the most part, Eagle says homeless people in Hawaii are primarily local folks.

With all the national and international attention, Eagle says the Department of Human Services is now trying to spread the word they’re not actively flying people out right now.

“They’re really wanting to send the message out, ‘Hey we don’t intend to do this, stay where you are.'”

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