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Timeline, contract set for Sand Island housing

  • COURTESY GROUP 70 INTERNATIONAL / CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU
    An artist’s rendering of a modular housing project aimed at providing transitional shelter for the homeless at Sand Island. The Institute for Human Services won the contract to manage the one-year pilot project.
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The city expects to complete the first phase of its first-of-its-kind transitional housing project built with modified shipping containers on Sand Island by Oct. 30 — moving in 27 to 36 residents in early November, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said Friday.

“We’ve not done this before,” Caldwell told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in an exclusive interview. “If it works we’ll modify it, we’ll tweak it.”

Container Storage of Hawaii Ltd. won a $523,517 contract to erect 25 containers, each measuring 20 by 8 feet, for what will be the Hale Mauliola transitional housing project on 5 acres of land the state is providing rent-free for three years.

The first nine containers are scheduled to be ready by Oct. 30. By the end of the year, the city plans to have all 25 containers up and ready for a total of 83 people.

Each container will have been used just once to ship goods into Hawaii, said Sandy Pfund, head of the city Office of Strategic Development.

They will then be modified to accommodate either three separate, lockable units for three single occupants or divided in half to accommodate two sets of couples.

There will be no electricity or running water inside the containers, but they will be outfitted with battery-operated lights.

Each unit will be heavily insulated and coated with reflective material on top to cut down on heat. Each unit also will have a screen door and screen windows to allow a cross-breeze.

All of the containers will then be covered in a tentlike material that will both further cut down on heat and create communal areas between pairs of containers.

“It’s a community setting,” Caldwell said. “It’s a form of a village.”

Unlike some homeless shelters, Caldwell said, “You can bring a pet if the pet is not dangerous. The rules will be a little bit more relaxed, but there will still be rules.”

Not all of the rules have been worked out, said Connie Mitchell, executive director of the Institute for Human Services, which won an $850,000 contract to operate Hale Mauliola as a one-year pilot project.

But in general, Mitchell said, the rules will be designed “to respect other people’s property and respect the whole site, and respect each other and invest in that community.”

Perhaps just as important, residents will be able to lock their units and keep their property secure. They’ll also have access to showers and bathrooms and communal dining areas.

Security will be provided around the clock, along with social services that residents can access to help find permanent housing.

“We want to make sure people get the right kind of help,” Mitchell said.

“There is a point of entry,” Caldwell said. “You just can’t wander in. You know who’s there, you know who’s coming in. It’ll be much more secure than what you’ll find on your streets.”

Mitchell also hopes community members step forward to help with photovoltaic systems and xeriscape gardens “and a lot of nice things that will make it a place of healing that’s really an oasis.”

While Hale Mauliola is designed to be a community to give homeless people a chance to turn their lives around, Caldwell said the city still plans to enforce its “sit-lie” ban in places such as Waikiki, downtown and Chinatown.

“We’re not going to keep the pressure off,” Caldwell said. “We will continue to make it less convenient to remain on sidewalks. We’re not going to slow down at all with our compassionate disruption.”

Stepped-up enforcement of the city’s sit-lie ban has led to an influx of homeless people in Kakaako, where a growing encampment around the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center, University of Hawaii medical school and Kakaako Waterfront Park has become a problem with reports of increasing crime, disturbances and unsafe conditions.

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