Updated 4/5/20. With so much changing globally, we keep sights peeled on our island home here and the new normal in Hawaii. It is mind-boggling to us, as I’m sure it is to all of you, how quickly life and Hawaii travel in particular is changing. We anxiously await getting somewhere to the other side of this unknown time, to resume anything that may appear like Hawaii of last year.
Homeless arrivals receive free one-way ticket back to the mainland.
At airports in Hawaii, those arriving without lodging are being told to turn around and fly back to where they came from or face arrest. This is to reduce the homeless situation. Hawaii has since 2014, used private and public funds to pay for half the airfare to send 744 homeless people back home to their families on the mainland. A bill now before the state legislature – House Bill 1945 – will provide a dollar-for-dollar match to the program led by the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association and the state’s Hawaii Tourism Authority.
Hawaii’s Institute for Human Services said that in 2018, hundreds of people from the U.S. mainland showed up at its shelters for help. Of those, they said most were single men, many of whom had been in Hawaii less than three months.
This week for example, Kauai police arrested a 50 year old visitor from Washington state. He had arrived Thursday on an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle. When he was asked about where he was staying (as is currently required of all arrivals), he did not have accommodations and apparently refused to find them. He was taken to jail, then returned to Seattle. And yesterday, another visitor from Florida was arrested following an interisland flight, when he could not provide proof of lodging. He was arrested and is facing multiple charges. Once released, he’ll have to either provide accommodation information or will get his free flight home.
Does New York export homeless to Hawaii?
It has been reported multiple times, and as recently as last year, that New York sends its homeless to places including Hawaii as part of a “Special One-Time Assistance Program.” The recipient destination, in this case Hawaii, allegedly was not informed.
Unprecedented police checkpoints and arrests.
The past week has seen Kauai, which has arguably the most stringent enforcement regulations at this time, implement checkpoints. Three visitors have been arrested here (two at Lihue airport and one at the Hanalei checkpoint) and it probably isn’t over yet. Police have been stopping cars in Waimea, Kapaa, Lihue and Poipu, at least as far as we know of personally. A few days ago there was a roadblock on the highway at Halfway Bridge (between Tree Tunnel turn off and Lihue) that took 90 minutes to clear. The Kauai police are checking to be sure that rules are adhered to including stay at home orders and only going out for essential needs.
Hawaii’s tourism culture is under pressure.
With tourism to the islands being far and away Hawaii’s largest source of employment, impacting virtually everyone who lives here, we obviously want to maintain a great relationship with our visitors. That having been said, it would appear some things will be different going forward.
What will the new normal be in Hawaii and where you live?