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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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America's homeless head for Hawaii

June 06 2010
Photo: © Athan Didas Photo: © Athan Didas
Three dollars a day buys you bed, board and a lot of sunshine
Meanwhile, a somewhat different approach is also leading to an increase in the homeless population of one island.

Hawaii has seen a 10 per cent increase in homeless people arriving from the mainland due to a generous benefits system making life on the streets in Hawaii an more attractive option than elsewhere.

While tourists pay $200 a night for a hotel room in the sunshine island state, $3 a day will buy three meals, accommodation in one of the Honolulu's shelters and free health care.

The Sumner Homeless Men's Shelter, just a mile from the capital's harbour has 1,300 annual guests. Last year, as word about the generous benefits packages spread, a third of these were from mainland America.

According to Wayne Yoshioka of National Public Radio (NPR), Gary Phillips had been homeless in San Diego for years, but bought a $400 airline ticket to Hawaii for a better life in March. Former computer programmer Gary Titleman, took similar action. "Well, I was kind of homeless in Flagstaff and Prescott [Arizona], and a guy told me that you could go to Hawaii for $150, so I had some savings and bought a ticket," he told NPR.

But the resource drain caused by newly-arrived single male transients is not sustainable. According to Sumner Shelter's executive director, Connie Mitchell, the Hawaiian lawmakers need to develop policies to address the problem.

"I think that if people do want to take up that particular lifestyle that it shouldn't be at the public's expense."