These are state legislators?

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.”

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17 Comments on “These are state legislators?”

  1. hipoli Says:

    Can we please give Mizuno and Cabanilla both one-way tickets somewhere too?

    Dear House Leadership: Next re-org? Can you say VICE-CHAIRS, please?

    Thank you,
    The State of Hawaii

  2. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    I invited – or tried to invite – John Mizuno to come with my SigOth and me while we prepared & served dinner earlier this month for the Family Promise program which is a truoy unique volunteer program working with homeless families. He never even returned my telephone calls because, according to his office manager, he was too busy to do so.

    The local chapter of the Family Promise program which provides shelter & a wide range of social services to homeless families with children under 18 started up about six years ago. Faith communities of all kinds – there are 13 – 15 host congregations and an equal number of helping churches/temples – are in each group. Currently, one group is located in Windward O`ahu and a second one in urban Honolulu. Two more sets are coming shortly in Central and West O`ahu, but I don’t have the details yet.

    We’re working with the urban Honolulu group because that’s where our (helping) church is located.

    Each host church provides shelter + breakfast & brown bag lunch for a week at a time while the helping congregations provide the dinners.

    The idea that we are bad people because we provide food, shelter & social services to families who are homeless really torks me off. i wanted John to see first-hand what it means not just to help others but also what it means to live this way even for just a few months.

    The lack of realistically-priced housing in clean, safe neighborhoods with easy access to public transportation, schools, stores, and JOBS is the principal need – not donations to ship people back to Nowhere, Nebraska.

  3. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Whoops!!! truzy = truly

  4. Bongo Says:

    The state “relocation” fund is being reserved for the Lingle Administration to get out of town later this year.

  5. charles Says:

    To be fair, as in all sectors of society, there are state legislators and then there are state legislators.

    In other words, Cabanilla and Mizuno are, indeed, state legislators, but, thankfully, not all state legislators are Cabanilla and Mizuno.

    Subtle, perhaps, but a profound difference.

  6. Kolea Says:

    Good commentary, Dave.

    But I wonder about your concession that “here are vagrants from the Mainland who come here to take advantage of our social services….”

    I suspect the reality ids that our public “assistance” is much more draconian and limited than that statement implies. So let me suggest another way of viewing it.

    Almost everyone in the world has fantasies of living in Hawaii. They infect the thinking of the richest to the poorest. It is a great success of our tourist industry to have filled people’s minds with romantic fantasies of living close to nature on the beach in Hawaii, bathing in a waterfall, drinking from a coconut and picking tropical fruit from every nearby tree.

    Think back at the end of that great film, “Midnight Cowboy,” when the Jon Voight character is helping his friend “Ratso”(?) get down to Florida and leave the hardships of New York for a life in the sun.

    Over the years, I have met a lot of people, often youndg people, sometimes older, who have come to Hawaii thinking they could “live off the land,” or content to work at a low wage job just in order to be “in Paradise.”

    Hawaii’s welfare benefits are not generous. That is not the problem. Unemployment, high rents and the human quest for a tropical paradise are the problems.

  7. Kolea Says:

    As for Mizuno and Cabanilla, I think John is sometimes good on issues, even bold on issues. Just when I find myself annoyed with him, he surprises me by demonstrating compassion and intelligence in another area.

    But Rida? Not sure why she gets elected.

  8. Michael Says:

    Want to make the mayor or governor move and move fast, Sue him or Sue her.
    It seemed to have worked with the fixing of the sewage water plant. Sue, crazy gets things moving.

    Make the State, those homeless come from carry the cost to reunite them back with family.
    If locally then it is up to hanneman or lingle to help the homeless. Again Tax payers will have an add on to their already Taxed out income.

    It should be if locally family relatives should help their own. Not!

  9. Brian Says:

    Is the homeless coming from the mainland to Hawaii “issue” the new Reagan’s Cadillac welfare queens deal?

  10. Anonymous By Choice Says:

    I am a program director for a major non-profit in town that works closely with other non-profit agencies, and each week we hear from dozens of homeless clients who came here from the mainland. While some did manage to pay their own way here, believing that they can either live off the land or manage to survive off the system, the majority of these folks didn’t pay their own way here. Sadly, they had their plane ticket to Hawaii paid for by the Human Services dept. in their home state. In short, other states are shipping their homeless clients to Hawaii. This is voluntary, but the client believes that Hawaii has got to be better than wherever they were before, so they gladly sign on the dotted line.

    I don’t know that shipping the homeless back to the mainland is the answer here, but I’m not saying that it’s not, either. I really don’t know what is the best solution to this issue, but mainland transplants, arriving here with tickets paid for by their home state, yet with no job or place to stay lined up, are taxing the already tight resources here.

  11. masaru shirai Says:

    WTF with most of you…this is a story about a homeless who came to Hawaii with a tale of possible employment, but that failed to happen. Now, he’s out on the street and has an elderly father back on the Mainland. They both want to get back togather and Mizuno is providing a way. It’s a one case scenario and you folks are making into a generalized ‘solution’ for the homeless concern. IF there are more situations of folks wanting to get home then I see the funds as a way to help them get out of Hawaii and back to their families on the continent.

  12. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    ANON – Did you attend the City’s briefing on homeless issues Tuesday afternoon. Your take on the situation is very different from the dozen or so people working in a wide variety of social services and faith-based communities as well as law enforcement as to the makeup of O`ahu’s homeless population. Everyone there agreed that that it is an urban myth about homeless folks being shipped to Hawai`i by social service or government agencies.

    I strongly urge that you speak with any or all of the individuals who were presenters at the program. For a complete list along with their contact information, call Debbie Kim Morikawa, Director, Department of Community Services for the City & County of Honolulu.

    As the co-founder of of one homeless services organization and an active volunteer with another, I have to say that I believe what they say. It not only fits with my experiences but also with others as well.

    Yes, there are people here who have come from elsewhere and are homeless, but they got here on their own – not because it was public policy in their hometowns to put them on a bus to Las Vegas or on a plane to Hawai`i.

  13. zzzzzz Says:

    @cap, whether they came here on their own dime or not, the presence of homeless here from elsewhere will greatly increase the difficulty of garnering support for any government expenditure on homeless, as well as getting contributions for non-government organizations that provide services to the homeless.

  14. cloudia Says:

    One flight home to Honolulu had me seated next to a scrubbed older woman in new, serviceable clothes.

    She traveled alone and was well behaved if somehow drawing attention with her erratic movements…

    I wondered if she wasn’t one of those who moved immediately to our streets, sent here by another town that gave her the ‘bum’s rush.’

    We do see many Micronesians who are entitled to came to the US by compact, who use lots of social service by anyone’s reckoning. The Feds should assist those people in a meaningful way. I proposed homeless “safe zones” ten or more years ago… but I’m a nobody. Now it’s being looked at.
    Great! And how about “hiring” sober homeless to stay at school property overnight and prevent vandalism by mere presence? They could be given cell phones and instructed in simple rules of non-engagement. People want to contribute to society, and many do with menial jobs, and by recycling. Yes, there are dysfunctional people on the street who need compassionate care, but many homeless are just a job away from being…us. Let’s give them a simple job doing things that need to be done!

  15. cloudia Says:

    Aloha from Waikiki

    Comfort Spiral

  16. hipoli Says:

    From the comments section of today’s ‘John is a Hero’ article.

    “TWITIGER says:

    This person was given more than enough chances to make some money for his airfare back home. After being here for a day or two, he walked into our church lookling for some help. Honestly, I just think that he didn’t want the job that he came here for and just wanted to go back home. He asked for help by saying that he would work long enough to fly out. Maybe a week or less of honest work could of paid for his way. One member of our church offered him a job and could start the very next day. He showed up for work, but within 2hrs time he got up and left. Now I think it was probably too hot for him that day, or the weeds that he was trying to pull out grew too deep into the concrete sidewalks that it became no match for him. A few days later, he was given a task at the church to organize and separate some screws so he could get some money. I dont think he was there for no more than an hour before he started getting upset about something and was asked to leave. He was given $20 bucks out of the kindness of a members heart and not because to avoid a situation that was quickly turning into something violent. The very next day he showed up at the church again and asked to get paid from a different member. Not knowing that he was already compensated, this member gave Greg Reese another $20 bucks for a task he didn’t want to do from the start. Greg had the wrong attitude to the innocent people of this church. With open hearts, he was accepted, but in return, he showed no appreciation and in alot of ways, he acted like he deserved to get whatever he asked for. I’m so sure that if his atitude wasn’t the way it was, he could of been back home within days of landing here. Just one more thing, BEAWARE, of this person, he comes up with so many kinds of stories, even you will become a victim of Gregory Resse.”

  17. Alan R. Spector Says:

    As a professional Licensed Clinical Social Worker employed in the field of community mental health, I have had many homeless clients with the vast MAJORITY being born and raised in Hawaii. Of the homeless mainland clients, I have seen two themes:

    1. Mainland woman who moves to Hawaii to be with a local main that she met on the mainland. Relationship fails, often he is an abuser and/or addict, they split and she’s left all alone with no social supports and an inability to afford a ticket back home.

    2. People who come here chasing a dream, believing that their life will be better and that their mental illness will improve if they start a new life in Hawaii. Then they arrive ill-prepared, can’t find work and/or housing, have minimal social supports, no family, become homeless, and can’t afford to return home.

    But these examples are the EXCEPTION and not the rule.

    I have never seen a client move here to “take advantage” of our social welfare benefits that are hardly enough to survive anyway.

    Many of my homeless clients are local people who are too disabled to work, too poor to afford hawaii’s ultra high rents, and lack relatives who can provide housing and/or financial assistance. Unless one is lucky enough to get a section 8 rental voucher, it is impossible to afford housing on a sub-$700 per month SSI check or a $200-$400 per month general assistance check from DHS.

    Again, my clients all have severe mental illness, are usually unable to work, they have nowhere to go, and they become society’s throwaways.

    To Hawaii Family Forum: What are you doing to help these people? How about devoting your resources to actually helping Hawaii’s families instead of opposing equality.

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