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Diocese of Honolulu tackles affordable housing project

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The Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu is moving forward with its Homeless Affordable Housing Plan, which aims to provide 720 living units for the poor by the end of 2013, spokesman Patrick Downes said.

"The diocese has done emergency shelters and other housing projects here and there over the years, but this is the first big comprehensive plan specific to affordable housing that incorporates different approaches and projects," said Downes, also editor of the Hawaii Catholic Herald.

The plan includes renovating idle government housing, preventing foreclosures or retrofitting old convents, according to a news release. Its focus is on helping people in households earning less than 30 percent of Hawaii’s median income.

The diocese expanded its efforts to find solutions to homelessness last fall when it founded HOPE Services Hawaii, and hired Father Robert Stark as a resource developer/community organizer under the Office for Social Ministry; and Kent Anderson as housing development director under the Office for Affordable Housing, the news release said. Bishop Larry Silva approved the plan in May.

Some of the projects and goals include:

» The renovation of 150 public housing units under the Hawaii Public Housing Authority by reviving Volunteers Instilling Pride, a grass-roots initiative.

» The acquisition and operation of Pauahi Hale, a 77-unit, city-owned affordable housing complex in downtown Honolulu, possibly by Catholic Charities Hawaii Development Corp., HOPE Services Hawaii or Mercy Housing, a national organization.

» Supporting Big Island Tenant Solutions, a program that will help private landlords of 75 units take in low-income tenants with the help of Section 8 government vouchers.

» Recruiting parish volunteers to help Habitat for Humanity affiliates build 42 new houses.

» Training more parish volunteers to help educate homeowners on foreclosure prevention with the Hawaiian Community Assets and Faith Action for Community Equity, with a goal of preventing 150 foreclosures.

» Converting vacant or underused church buildings into group homes for 36 residents recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

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