Thursday, February 5, 2009

One Way Ticket

You know, I really don’t know what to make of this.

New Bill To Give Homeless One-Way Ticket……out of Hawaii and back to where they came from.

Some Hawaii lawmakers said state government could save a lot of money if taxpayers funded one way plane tickets to send [the] homeless back to the Mainland.

Basically, for the those of you who don’t have time to follow the link, the idea is that Hawaii would use taxpayer money to ship out of state homeless folks back to the mainland. According the AP article about 40% of Hawaii’s homeless population is estimated to be from out of state.

When you read the logic behind the idea, well it seems to make sense. Sort of.

Basically the idea is that homeless are much more likely to become ex-homeless when they’re near friends and family that can provide support.  Having never been homeless myself and having no real direct experience with the homeless, but having spent a lot of time in big cities and places where there are a lot of folks living on the streets, I suspect that this idea is one of those things that sounds good when definitively stated by “experts” but in reality is just total bullshit. 

Plenty of folks, maybe even a majority, go homeless in close proximity to friends and family.  Somehow I tend to doubt that shipping the homeless out of Hawaii and back to Smallville, USA is going to suddenly drop them into a supportive environment and a good paying job, find them an affordable room or cure their substance abuse problem or fix the mental health issues they suffer from. 

No, I suspect they’ll just be homeless, only somewhere else.

Which, I suspect, is the general idea.

I suspect that despite high flown phrases, the intention here is less about altruism and a whole lot more about cleaning the undesirables out of Ala Moana park - because the last time I stayed on Waikiki Beach there were more homeless in Ala Moana Park than there were tourists.  It’s pretty damned jarring and disturbing to visit paradise and be confronted with several hundred raggedy-assed homeless people encamped like refugees in the Congo next to one of the top ten beaches in the world, drunk and raving insane and pissing themselves in public and panhandling on the corners. They’re pretty damned hard to miss, there in in the middle of paradise, since the only way to get from the airport to the hotels in downtown Honolulu is along Ala Moana Boulevard.  It really harshes your coconut oil to see it – not exactly good for the tourist trade, if you get my drift here.

Honolulu is  a beautiful city, I’ve been there dozens of times, but every time I’ve visited, the homeless population is noticeably bigger and frankly this idea sounds an awful lot like deporting undesirables and dumping them on somebody else. 

I’ve got to wonder though, how much it would cost to build decent facilities to house and help these people and get them off the street. 

Would it cost as much as thousands of plane tickets to the mainland?

What’s your take on this?


  1. NIMBY syndrome, times 2.

    Because not only do they "deport" the undesirables, their geography makes sure they can't come back when the weather turns cold at their mainland destination.

    Pretty crappy policy, if you ask me.

  2. I think the crappiness of the idea depends on the voluntariness of it.

    If they're putting together a fund to buy plane tickets for people charged with vagrancy or other crimes--literal deportation or exile--it's blatantly unconstitutional.

    If they're putting together a fund where some dude can show up at Social Services or wherever and say, "Hey, yeah, I wanna leave," I can't really see much to object to beyond the sort of general lameness of the idea per se as a "solution" to Hawai'i's homeless problem. ("No, no--we don't have to resolve unemployment, mental health or substance-abuse issues for our citiznes, we can just export the symptoms.")

    It does seem like the latter concept has abuse built into it, though--as the article suggests in its final paragraphs. If this goes through, I might see if I can scrape together enough money for a one-way ticket to the islands... after all, when my hotel stay runs out, I won't have anywhere to live, now will I?

  3. Eric- are these people citizens of the state of Hawaii, or beach bum junkies who overstayed their welcome? But then, California can probably claim to have the same problem, especially San Fran.

  4. (sigh)

    It says something about me that I immediately thought of Babylon 5.

    You can choose what that says.

  5. Also, if they want to return home and cannot do so, that seems like a great idea.

    Otherwise, it's tough.

    IIRC, the cost of living is so high in Hawaii that even if one has a job that doesn't mean one can afford food and shelter.

    If I were in charge, I would make the program voluntary, and then start to strongly enforce vagrancy laws already on the book--make it a less pleasant place to be homeless essentially.

  6. I vote with the ones noting the voluntariness of the whole thing.

    "Yes sir. I'd like me one-o-them-thar plane tickets. The parks in Bismark are so much nicer this time of year than here."

    And I just loved the concept of all the thousands of mainland homeless lining up for their flights on Aloha, knowing they'd get flown home for free. Just yesterday, I saw a guy on the corner with a sign that said, "Will work for airfare".

  7. Oh, BTW.

    This reminds me a little of something that used to go on in Boston. I may be remembering this slightly wrong, but if memory serves, they used to have busses trolling the streets in Boston for homeless folks in the winter. They'd take them out to a shelter that just happened to be on an island out in Boston harbor (with the bridge to it about 20 miles south of the city proper). Then, in the morning, they'd bus them back only as far as the mainland on the other side of the bridge. Homeless? What homeless?

  8. Nathan, I can say without even looking that somebody got a big fat promotion for that idea.

    Probably the same guy who signed off on the contractor for that tunnel...

  9. John: the implication in the article is that these are people from other states who have overstayed their welcome. People from Hawai'i would presumably have nowhere to fly to if this is a "going home" program.


    Unless "going home" is a euphemism for--

    1)The Soylent Green scenario


    2)The Robin Cook medical thriller organ-harvesting scenario


    3)The secret plan to build a cyborg/mutant/psychic army like something from a low-budget 70s or 80s movie that probably debuted on television and maybe starred whatshisname from Beastmaster scenario


    4)The sacrifice hobos to Satan scenario


    Maybe somebody should try to find out if the Hawai'i legislature is full of mad scientist Satanic cannibals suffering from organ failure! It could totally happen! How many Republicans do they have?

  10. Eric,

    correction 3) would have starred Jean Claude Van Damme and some blonde chick you've never heard of.

    Just sayin'

  11. Mad scientists that want to consume the world by runaway black holes are just fine. Satanic cannibals, not so much.

  12. I dunno. I think the State of Hawaii wants to put Dog the Bounty Hunter out of business.

    Where's the humanity in that? It'd be like not being able to film Cops in Miami.

    Dr. Phil

  13. Eric - "whatshisname from Beastmaster" would be Mark Singer.

    Also was in the scifi series "V".


  14. Thanks, Wendy! I "knew" that but couldn't remember, and was too lazy to hit IMDB. Of course, Jim's right, anyway--it would be a JCVD/anonymous starlet flick.

    I hear they're remaking or rebooting V--it's announced, but nobody seems to be clear on whether it's a complete re-start or some kind of "Next Generation" thing (I've heard both). I always kinda liked V; I think I saw most of the shows when it aired and I remember reading the A.C. Crispin (was it A.C. Crispin) novelizations in the back seat of the car during long trips. Unfortunately, I have a bad feeling it's one of those things you love when you're ten that you realize was insanely stupid if you're foolish enough to revisit it thirty or forty years later. Weren't the lizards trying to steal our water or something ridiculous like that? And of course there was all the recycled sfx footage necessitated by a TV budget and lack of cheap CGI in those days.

    Ah well, we'll see. I had misgivings about the new BSG and then it turned out to be awespecredible and stuff. So I've been wrong before; we'll see what happens if they really bring back V.

  15. Eric - Haven't heard much about it either, other than it's supposed to be happening. They could even go the route Star Trek is going, with a younger cast in original charater roles.

    Of course, a la "V", we could let the aliens take care of the homeless population...nom, nom, nom...oh, hey, this human fits me just fine!

    More to the point, and what I didn't get a chance to write yesterday (something about having real work to do) is the universality of the homeless problem, especially in light of the present economic situation. It's not going away any time soon and sending them from one place to another just makes it someone else's problem.

    I've lost track of how many homeless inititives we've had here in Atlanta. They even took park benches out of several downtown parks in an effort to discourage them, to no avail. Folks just hung out other places or roamed public transit.

    I used to live in Downtown at one point, and am not sure I would now, just because the atmosphere on the street has changed so much in the 6 years or so since I moved.

    I actually got followed/chased by some homeless, pregnant, stoned off her ass drug addict just before Thanksgiving. Not a comfortable feeling and when I got to the train station, couldn't even find a cop...in the middle of 3 overlapping constabulary districts.

    Don't know what the solution is. I help or donate at local soup kitchens and shelters when I can, but it's a drop in a tsunami.


  16. What a lot of these hard asses don't get is how many paychecks they are away from homelessness themself.

    My own personal nightmare is that I figure the geniuses of the banking industry will decide on mass calling in of mortgages as housing pricing decline, innocently pointing out that they're upside down loans now and what were they supposed to do. In a 30-year mortgage you're mainly paying interest for the first 15-20 years, and so you have most of the principle on the books for a long time.

    So yeah, homelessness -- it's in the bushes, lurking, waiting to suck out your bone marrow.

    Dr. Phl

  17. It's no secret (ask any mental health professional) that many large cities, ESPECIALLY the ones with cold winters, have been practicing the exact same thing-only putting them on a one way ticket HERE. Come on, when you're homeless and you're here, you're not going to be able to get back to NYC, as opposed to migrating to, say, Florida for the winter. That in itself-homeless migration during winter-is no new phenomena. However, when a homeless person can be convinced to come to Hawaii, the 'migration' no longer exists, and Hawaii gains a new homeless person.

    I have nothing against homeless people. Right now times are difficult, and finding a place to afford to live while working a minimum wage job very well probably IS NOT possible.

    The crux of the problem is cities not being willing to DEAL with the issues of homelessness and their myriad problems; it's far easier to ship 'em somewhere else then proudly proclaim the problem has been solved in their city.

    It's been going on so long with other cities sending their homeless to Hawaii that I say hells yeah, give them a chance to get back on the mainland. Especially in a recessionary economy where essentially the ONLY form of industry is tourism...people pay a lot of money to come to paradise. If people are going to ship homeless folk here, we definitely should be able to ship them back.


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