“[The Institute for Human Services] receives probably, about on average, 100, 150 phone calls or email inquiries every year from people who are actually looking to be homeless here in Hawaii,” said Kimo Carvalho, Development and Community Relations Manager at the Institute for Human Services (IHS).
According to Carvalho, IHS discourages them from coming and tries to educate them about the realities of paradise. But some don’t realize it until they get here.
“The rent is really expensive. And the food’s really expensive. But I like it here. But everything’s really expensive,” said Lee Vogt, a homeless man originally from Ohio.
“A lot of people from the mainland, there also just stuck here. They came here not realizing the affordability issues, safety issues, and what sort. And they just couldn’t make it. So now they’re stuck,” said Carvalho.
We spoke to one lawmaker who’s familiar with this issue. During this upcoming legislative session, he plans to re-introduce a bill that could help alleviate the problem.
Rep. John Mizuno wants to pass a bill that would fund what’s called the Return-to-Home program. The pilot project would reunite homeless people with their families on the mainland. The legislature approved the program back in 2013, but funding fell through. Rep. Mizuno hopes this time around that will change, especially since it’s been done in other cities like New York and San Francisco.
“We want to reduce homelessness, No. 1. We want to reunite that homeless person with their family. It’s a strong support system and they can get back on their feet. Go to school, get job, what have you. Third, we’re going to save the taxpayers millions of dollars. And finally, fourth, we’re going to save the finite amount of money that we have for our local homeless,” said Rep. Mizuno, (D) Kalihi Valley, Kamehameha Heights, Lower Kalihi.
Rep. Mizuno says the Return-to-Home program could cost taxpayers about $150,000.
“It’s not a silver bullet. It’s not going to reduce homelessness a hundred percent, but it’s one segment and it’s something that we really need to look into and move forward,” said Rep. Mizuno.