I remember covering O’ahu District Court in the late 1960s when haole hippies brought in on marijuana busts would be offered an opportunity by the judge to have charges dropped if they got on a plane back to the Mainland by midnight.
It’s like deja vu all over again with the move in the Legislature led by Reps. John Mizuno and Rida Cabanilla to establish a $100,000 “family reunification” fund to give homeless people from the Mainland one-way tickets back to where they came from.
The measure failed in the Legislature last session, but Mizuno and Cabanilla were grandstanding on its behalf this week, with Mizuno putting up $100 to help send a homeless man back to Seattle and urging others to contribute to the cause.
John Fox, director of the Seattle Displacement Coalition, was incredulous that Hawai’i is trying to export its homeless, according to a story in the Star-Advertiser by Dan Nakaso.
“You hear the occasional story of some small reactionary community somewhere wanting to put homeless people on buses,” Fox said. “But I’ve never met or run into any homeless person or service provider who has assumed something like this has actually happened before.”
Of Mizuno and Cabanilla, he said, “These are state legislators?”
There might be legitimate cases where social service providers would feel the best way to help a homeless person is to help him get home, but to make it official state policy to dump our homeless elsewhere would be another national disgrace for Hawai’i.
No doubt there are vagrants from the Mainland who come here to take advantage of our social services and balmy weather, but it’s a myth that they make up a substantial number of our more than 4,000 homeless on O’ahu, the vast majority of whom are homegrown.
Focusing so much attention on the relatively small number of homeless who are recent Mainland transplants distracts from the real challenge of finding ways to help local citizens who are often physically or mentally ill, down on their luck or drug-addicted.
I have further thoughts on homelessness in my column in today’s Star-Advertiser: “It’s time to focus on finding where the homeless can live.”