Ever heard of the Institute for Human Services?
This social services agency is focused on ending homelessness. A great cause in a place facing a serious issue because it’s so ridiculously difficult to manage a mortgage on the Hawaiian islands. And while Captain Machismo Tom Selleck enjoyed the finer things in life during his time there, thousands of people do not.
Great PSA, right? It should be…
The non-profit organization is “embarking on a $1.3 million effort that includes plans to fly 120 homeless people back to the mainland.” Ah yes, nothing quite says PR success like dropping home ownership values.
According to a story by CivilBeat.com, the majority of the $1.3 million will go toward “intensive outreach services to connect Waikiki’s homeless to shelters, housing, employment and medical services.”
Sweet, right? Before you plan your love notes stuffed with $20 bills for donations, get this:
The ultimate goal is to clear the homeless out of Waikiki, where businesses have complained that they are hurting tourism.
And there’s the rub. What looks like roses on the surface smells far worse in those dank corners that people would like the public to overlook.
The plans are reigniting controversy about the idea of flying the homeless out of state — Gov. Neil Abercrombie rejected such a plan earlier this year. And a PR campaign discouraging people from coming to Hawaii strikes an odd chord for a state that prides itself on its spirit of aloha and a tourism industry that spends millions of dollars every year marketing the state as an attractive visitor destination.
“I do think that conversation will have to touch on a couple very sensitive rails…what is aloha and what is our message going to be nationally,” said [state homeless czar Colin] Kippen.
The essence of Aloha would be providing these people a home for righteous reasons, not marketing ones, right? That would be the best look. Well, if you ask IHS chief flack Kimo Carvalho, that is the look they were going for…
“We are trying to do an aggressive public relations effort, trying to water down misinformation, basically not making Hawaii be an attractive destination to come and be homeless” said Carvalho, who said that the PR effort will stress how expensive it is to make it in Hawaii.
Carvalho said that the PR campaign will also target media organizations. He said news coverage of the city’s new law that bans sitting and lying on sidewalks in Waikiki is a good example of getting the message out that Hawaii isn’t an easy or hospitable place if you are homeless.
I have been to Hawaii once, and I learned a phrase that I never thought I would use again:
I hiamoe au ma luna o kou ‘uha?
It means “May I sleep on your lap?” and the answer is pretty much always “no.”