Hawaii’s controversial program to fly homeless people back to the mainland is likely to expire at the year’s end.

The Legislature adopted the three-year program in 2013, infusing it with $100,000 in state funds to buy one-way tickets to those wishing to return to their families on the mainland.

State Rep. John Mizuno, the main sponsor of the bill that created the program, tried to extend it beyond its expiration date of Dec. 31 with House Bill 1587, but the measure was deferred Tuesday by the House Committee on Human Services.

A plane makes its final approach to land at Honolulu International Airport on Oahu.

The “return-to-home” program was controversial from the get-go — opposed by some officials from the Hawaii Department of Human Services, which was tasked to oversee the program.

Critics were concerned about the potential for abuse, as well as the lack of necessary funds for doing background checks and securing travel documents.

A similar return-to-home effort has been in operation since 2014, supported by donations from the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, and flown 133 individuals out of Hawaii.

The program — run by the Institute for Human Services, the state’s biggest homeless shelter operator — received a $25,000 donation in September for its expansion to Maui.

About the Author