Last week we took some time to discuss the homeless problem currently facing Hawaii. The first part of this look focused on some of the reasons the problem currently exists. There has been many conversations around the media and public as to what are possible solutions to the problem. There has been a wide array of ideas thrown out by various parties as to what can be done to alleviate the growing homeless population. Today, Desperate America Report will take a look at a few of these ideas and maybe find a keeper.
In a 2006 op-ed, Sen. Will Espero(D. 20th) listed a few possible answers to the problem of Hawaii’s homeless. Today we’ll look at a few of them as well as an idea that has been floated on numerous occasions but has now seemed to pick up traction within the legislature. First we will look at a couple different types of transitional housing. Transitional housing serves as a stepping stone for the homeless on the road back to a normal life. Theses houses typically allow individuals a time of up to two years to get settled on their feet and find work and potential living areas. One type of transitional housing is a sober house. Any and all individuals wishing to use the shelter facilities must be clean and sober throughout their time there. Another usual requirement is that any necessary medications must be taken regularly. This type of housing forces individuals to take drastic steps in their lives and take responsibility for their choices. The problem with this approach is that many of the homeless population are really unable to take make drastic changes. These individuals have gone through some sort of problem and have been unable to get back on track. It is common to see eager homeless individuals enter these types of shelters, only to leave or be expelled due to the restrictions. This results in the cycle continuing.
Another type of transitional housing is a shelter first approach. This take on housing features less restrictions on the homeless and serves more as an opportunity for individuals to come in and take the time to get accustomed to having a safe place to live. The proponents of this type of housing often point to the notion that homeless individuals require nothing more than a safe place to stay in order to begin the process of reclaiming a normal life. Supporters feel that a person will be more likely to seek help in these shelters than a sober house because of the minimal restrictions. This can allow the individual the time to get comfortable with the surroundings and themselves. A common problem with this type of shelter is that with the minimal restrictions, some homeless take advantage of the situation and try to peddle the very substances that have landed so many in their current situations.
Recently, an idea has begun to gain momentum in the Hawaii legislature. Citing the increasing flow of out-of-state homeless coming to Hawaii, some members of the legislature have floated the idea of paying for a one-way ticket home. The idea is not something new. It has long been a topic of conversation within the politicians and general public. Economically, the idea makes perfect sense. Typically, a one-way ticket ranges in cost between $200-$400. According to Rep. John Mizuno(D. 30th), it costs the state $314/month to provide food stamps, $350/month for general assistance, and possibly thousands of dollars for medical costs. This is all being taken advantage of by many out-of-state homeless. A one-time expenditure of a few hundred dollars would save Hawaii a few thousand dollars a year for ever person that is sent back home. Of course, all of this would hinge on the person accepting the offer to return home. The state can not force someone to leave if the person has entered Hawaii legally. Along with Rep. Mizuno, Rep. Rida Cabanilla (D. 42nd) has started the push towards legislation that would allow the state to spend resources on this plan. It will be interesting to see if the momentum will continue into the 2011 legislative session.
There are many possible solutions to curbing the homeless problem in Hawaii. Hopefully in time most of these ideas will have their time in front of lawmakers. Until then, we must continue to help our brothers and sisters in need any way we can. Desperate America Report will continue to monitor the issue and will have updates if and when legislation is introduced specifically addressing the problem.
*Click here for more information on the homeless problem and shelters*