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Shuttle bus will help homeless connect

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Living in the Onelauena Shelter in Kalaeloa, residents can find the 2-mile walk to the Kapolei Transit Center arduous.

They say the hike is inconvenient, time-consuming and often dangerous due to the lack of sidewalks and the absence of street lighting at night.

"It’s a struggle that we have to go through," said resident Evan Taetuna.

He and others hailed the coming of a new city shuttle bus service that aims to link homeless shelters and transitional housing centers in Kalaeloa to nearby communities and the transit center.

Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced the program yesterday and toured the four shelters to be serviced by the new shuttle.

"It’s about helping them get back on their feet and back into our communities," Caldwell said. "The only way you can do that is by connecting them with the broader community."

The service is scheduled to start Aug. 9, and will be operated by Hawaii Helping the Hungry Have Hope (H-5). Providers say the service will use two donated charter buses and two 15-passenger vans to provide the shuttle service.

Facilities to be serviced are Onelauena Shelter, Homeless Veterans Substance Abuse Program, Hale Ulu Pono Shelter and Kumuhonua Shelter.

The cost of the project will be about $148,000 for one year, officials said. Costs are being covered by the city with the help of matching funds from the Federal Transit Administration, state Department of Human Services, Hawaii Community Development Authority, Waianae Community Outreach and H-5.

"This has definitely been long in coming," said Sophina Placencia, executive director of Waianae Community Outreach, which operates Onelauena.

She said many programs that aim to help get homeless out of shelters and back into jobs require transportation to which many homeless do not have access.

"One of the biggest barriers is definitely the transportation out into this area," she said.

Utu Langi, founder and director of H-5, said his organization tried to run a similar service in 2008 but ran out of funds after about 10 months.

"When we ended the service, a lot of people were not happy," Langi said.

The service had a ridership of about 100 riders per day when it was cut short in April 2009.

"I’m really glad, now, that this is happening," he said.


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