A crew from Commercial Roofing &Waterproofing Hawaii spent two days patching 30 pukas in the roof of Waikiki Health’s Next Step shelter in Kakaako, where rain had been dripping into the dining area and cubicles of the homeless.
When it’s raining and the droplets fall inside the shelter, “it’s bad,” said client Rumi Mike, 20, who on Friday held one of her two babies in her Next Step cubicle as the workers wrapped up two days of repairs.
Next Step had received estimates as high as $26,000 to fix the roof, said Paul Samiano, the shelter’s maintenance specialist. But Commercial Roofing &Waterproofing finished patching the holes Friday and heavily discounted the project to help the homeless.
The company charged Next Step $2,800.
“It’s a lot of repairs,” said Jeff Gowan, director of Commercial Roofing’s repairs and maintenance division. “A lot of repairs.”
The project is the third of its kind this year organized by a new hui of builders and developers called HomeAid Hawaii to tap its members’ expertise and skills to help the homeless.
Nani Medeiros, HomeAid Hawaii’s executive director, said her organization is already planning two more homeless-related projects that could begin by the end of 2016 to fix the roof above the Institute for Human Services’ women’s and children’s shelter and to renovate bathrooms and kitchenettes at the city’s Pauahi Hale low-income housing complex on North Pauahi Street. The city also operates Honolulu’s only so-called “hygiene center” at the housing complex, where anyone — including the homeless — can take a shower.
The repairs to the roof at Waikiki Health’s Next Step come as the shelter’s new director, Jason Espero, has eased rules there to allow clients to stay during the day instead of having to find somewhere else to go, such as the Kakaako shoreline.
Espero wants to make it easier for homeless people to get off the street and into Next Step and then on their way to permanent housing.
In the five months before Espero began changing Next Step’s rules and procedures, 31 people — including four families — had moved into permanent housing.
But in the last five months, the number of people moving out of the shelter and into permanent housing — 58 — has nearly doubled, including another eight families.
And the average length of stay has been cut in half, from 265 days on average to just 132 days over the last five months.
Next month Waikiki Health will begin sending a health care team to the shelter once a month, Espero said.
Combined with a newly patched roof, relaxed rules and more support to get homeless people into housing, Espero hopes to change the culture of the shelter and help clients break the cycle of homelessness.
“This is just the beginning,” Espero said.