The proposed measure would help people who have found themselves homeless after coming to Hawaii from the mainland return to their home state and their families. The program would be voluntary, and the bill requests an appropriation of $75,000.
Majority of written testimony on this bill was in support; however, the Hawaii Public Housing Authority highlighted repercussions of a well-intended bill.
"We caution that it may have the unintended effect of increasing the number of homeless persons entering Hawaii, once it is known that a person who gets here on their own will be able to get transportation back home provided by the State. We are concerned that some may misuse this program to take a 'free vacation' to Hawaii."
The public housing authority makes a good point. Could these be possible scenarios?
Wayne from Wisconsin: "I really want to live in Hawaii. Should I buy a one-way ticket to Hawaii without sufficient income or a job lined up to "see if I can make it out here"? Heh, why not? It's always sunny and I could probably find a job. If I don't, and end up homeless, the State would be able to send me back home anyway."
Mindy from Maine: "If I only had enough money for a round-trip ticket to Hawaii, I could vacation there all summer! What law? They have a Return-to-Home program? So if I tell them that I'm stranded and homeless, they'll send me back to the states. Right on!"
Of course these are gross exaggerations, but getting more "risk-takers" traveling to Hawaii could be an unintended consequence of a Return-to-Home program.
The Hawaii Public Housing Authority recommended amending the measure to limit the Return-to-Home program to families with minor children who are stranded on the islands.
As HB 1187 continues through the legislative process, lawmakers will have to look at the possibility of people abusing the program and other unintended consequences that could make futile the good intent of the proposed bill.