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Homeless settle into Hale

  • KRYSTLE MARCELLUS / KMARCELLUS@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Kimo Carvalho, above, director of community relations at the Institute for Human Services, sits inside a double room at Hale Mauliola.

  • KRYSTLE MARCELLUS / KMARCELLUS@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Damien “Uncle Kala” Koanui, above, a resident at Hale Mauliola, brushed his teeth at the community sink before heading out for the day Monday. Koanui has been at the facility for about 50 days and said he is sleeping better and feels safer than when he was on the streets.

  • KRYSTLE MARCELLUS / KMARCELLUS@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Hale Mauliola, a temporary modular housing facility at Sand Island, can accommodate 80 to 90 residents.

The last of 25 converted shipping containers has landed at Hawaii’s first homeless “navigation center,” and about one-third of its formerly homeless tenants have moved into transitional homes on a patch of Sand Island, but Mayor Kirk Caldwell wants the new Hale Mauliola project to proceed cautiously.

“This is a test,” Caldwell told reporters Monday. “We’ll modify, we’ll adjust. … This is a first step.”

Caldwell spoke on the site of Hale Mauliola’s last structure yet to be installed: a communal “central hale” dining area that will be made out of a tentlike, pop-up structure where tenants can eat their daily continental breakfast, lunch and dinner that they’re provided.

Families pay rent of $130 per month, and singles are charged $100. But fees are waived if tenants work 20 hours per month.

The goal is to move occupants out of Hale Mauliola and into more permanent housing within 60 days, but that’s also flexible.

By late March, Hale Mauliola expects to reach full capacity of 80 to 90 occupants, plus any pets they might bring.

Since the first occupants started moving in during November, 38 people and their pets have moved in. Six have since moved on to other housing, including one who was flown back home to the mainland.

On Monday 32 residents, such as former Waikiki beachboy Clayton “Uncle Clay” Gohier, 75, were off the street and living in Hale Mauliola.

“I’m so happy to be here,” Gohier said, leaning on his walker. “Down to the janitor, everybody treats you well.”

Three dogs were also at Hale Mauliola on Monday.

For Damien “Uncle Kala” Koanui, 59, having a place to call home and lock up his valuables means everything.

In just under 50 days, life at Hale Mauliola has “given me my dignity back,” Koanui said.

He showed reporters the new Kala mahogany ukulele he won at a Christmas giveaway at Ward Warehouse and played the first tune he’s started learning, called “Happy Me.”

Koanui smiled as he strummed and sang the lyrics, “Everybody knows that I got a happy life. … I’m the original happy me.”

Hale Mauliola is much more than a place for formerly homeless people to live, said Jerry Coffee, clinical director for the Institute for Human Services, which runs it for the city.

As a “navigation center” it offers an on-site housing specialist to help get occupants into long-term housing, a full-time social worker case manager and seven other staff who rotate shifts around the clock.

There are also daily shuttles to take residents to IHS’ homeless shelters in Iwilei, where they can get drug or alcohol counseling, medical treatment and other services.

“It’s an entry point for our homeless in the urban core,” Caldwell said.

Hale Mauliola takes up about 1 of its 4 acres. Caldwell said it could possibly accommodate more converted shipping containers to house even more homeless people. He mentioned the potential for communities of homeless — including Micronesians — who might want to move in together.

But instead of building out Hale Mauliola immediately, Caldwell wants to see whether similar projects should be tried in other neighbor-hoods to help homeless people who often prefer to live close to where they work, attend school or feel more comfortable around familiar faces.

Caldwell said he’s open “to every possible concept.”

For Hale Mauliola, he said, “We want to make sure it’s working before we add to it. … We’re not going to rush.”

The mayor reiterated that Hale Mauliola is one piece of a homelessness strategy that last year resulted in housing for 772 formerly homeless people across Oahu.

The bulk comprised 596 homeless veterans who were helped by the Veterans Administration, U.S. Vets, Catholic Charities and a host of social service agencies working with an Oahu consortium called Partners in Care, said Jun Yang, the city’s executive director of the office of housing.

Even though nearly 600 veterans were housed, the effort fell 51 veterans short of meeting the nationwide “Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness” on Oahu by the end of 2015.

Still, Yang said, “We’re making pretty amazing progress.”

Hale Mauliola also represents the work of “a community effort,” said IHS spokesman Kimo Carvalho.

Outrigger Hotels and Resorts donated bedspreads that were customized by sewing groups, which also used them to make curtains. The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation gave palm trees and planter boxes. The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation provided benches. Homeless children at IHS’ family shelter turned their painted handprints into artwork.

“We can’t end homelessness on our own,” Carvalho said. “It really does take a community.”

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  • Things at Hale Mauliola seems to be a move in the right director…thanks to all and best wishes to those who were homeless are working towards getting back on their feet. Perhaps the more of the community’s homeless will participate. Still have to address those who opt to live off of government programs intended for those in true need.

  • Looks to have some promise here. They need to be firm on the requirements and restrictions. Also, who is going to be responsible for security? HPD, Sheriffs? Need to have a definite presence or they will form their own hierarchy.

  • I hope this report is true and not just Caldwell propaganda. I am happy for “Uncle” and all the others. It’s never too late and it’s about damn time the City has done something proactive.

  • SA is moderating my comment so here goes another try; I hope this report is true and not just Caldwell propaganda. I am happy for “Uncle” and all the others. It’s never too late and it’s about time the City has done something proactive.

  • All this money spent for each homeless, what a great message to other homeless on the mainland.
    Hawaii will give you a home for $100 a month and if you work 20 hours a week the rent is waived.
    Talk about an invitation to “vacation” in Hawaii. The likely cost of 1 container home is the cost of IHS/Waikiki Association to send 133 homeless BACK HOME TO THEIR FAMILIES last year. Heard the mayor say there were 5000-6000 homeless on Oahu, this Hale is even a scratch on the problem. Need to send home the ones that are refusing help back home and save the resources for the one who are really in need of help.

    • Good point. If it attracts another 1000 mainland homeless looking for a Hawaii vacation what do you do? Stack the containers and put up ladders. Should work.

      • Have some empathy. Do you think they come here to be homeless or come here and become homeless? Either way we have 3 choices. Ignore them and hope they go away letting them populate the sidewalks and parks, shelter them and provide assistance to get them off the streets (my choice), or jail them and exterminate them in a complete genocide. You think you have a proper solution?

        • I DON’T HAVE A SOLUTION yet am of the mindset to take care of Hawaii residents who need “help”. That’s different from providing shelter for bums. Aren’t you tired of getting taxed to death? Especially for transplants who have no ambition in becoming independent?

          Wherever they came from the cost of living’s certainly cheaper than here and realistically the odds are against them becoming self-sufficient.

        • Yo Masa, that reply was for gmejk. Nobody wants to be taxed to death. The gist is that we cannot allow fellow Americans to remain living in the parks and on the sidewalks. They will grow in number and be harder to control. Crime would be their only job. To make Oahu or any island safer is to shelter them and assist them back into society if they are willing. If we are US citizens and of the State of Hawaii it is our responsibility. It is a necessary evil to accomplish this. You cannot just reap benefits and not address the problems. I agree that many are not deserving but we cannot ignore the homeless and hope they go away.

    • Oh yea I can see them lining up to buy a $300 air ticket to get stuck in a shipping container on sand island. Great vacation! and you don’t even get a whole shipping container you get a tiny little part of a shipping container. Get real. To think that there will be a stampede of mainland people would come to this project is purely fantasy.

      • Atta boy Cheesey! Your point is on the money. The boobirds fail to see the importance of these first steps. We must help and save those that are willing. Get them out of the gutter and the shadows. Can you imagine someone saying they have their dignity back living in a makeshift container?

        • Beats living in 20-30 degree weather on top of a cardboard box like I’ve seen in Washington D.C., Philadelphia PA and New York City.

        • Yea right the guy with the cardboard box has the coin to come to Hawaii. If anything the dude is catching Greyhound to Miami. Come on, time to end your fantasy, get real.

        • Glad to hear that you’re certain that all the homeless people in Honolulu are 100% local residents down on their luck and NOT mainland transplants–since nobody homeless from the mainland could come up with the cost of a plane ticket here.

        • Never said that dude I just said that there will not be a 1000 guys heading to Hawaii for a spot in a shipping container like you suggest.

        • Mahalo Save for the comments. I see your point yet still get irritated as it seems more and more people rely on handouts rather than work and help themselves. Appreciate your views.

      • IRT HawaiiCheeseBalls > You obviously have never been to downtown honolulu. Homeless fly in from the mainland to loiter in Iolani palace by day and sleep on the concrete sidewalk outside the parking exit by night. Every week there are new faces with luggage tags still on their carryons. Unemployement in Hawaii is at historic lows. Where do you think all the homeless is coming from?

        I was flying back from Phoenix last month and there were two homeless passengers aboard our flight. For 8 days, the temp was in the 40’s and it was raining and miserable. $300 to sleep on a 80 degree instead of 40 degree sidewalk would be money well spent for anyone that has ever experienced it. In high school, we did a homeless study and had to sleep on cold concrete on 59 degree Wahiawa night in just a tee shirt and shorts. It was a brutal. You obviously have no idea what 20-30 degrees does to the homeless living conditions. A warm sidewalk is paradise for some…

        • They have to do something about the mainland homeless coming here sooner or later. You cant miss all the new faces unless your locked up all day. And when the construction boom is over, the trailer trash construction workers imported to work here will end up on the beach too.

        • As if being employed will automatically allow one to afford market rate rent here on Oahu. While there are mainland transplants that comprise a small percentage of the homeless population in downtown/Chinatown, especially along the entire stretch of Hotel and Pauahi Streets, the vast majority are Hawaii residents.

        • @islandsun Why do so many of you continue to perpetuate the myth that the majority of our homeless population are mainland transplants? Homeless statistics prove otherwise. It’s almost as if you can’t fathom how housing here in Hawaii has become unaffordable for tens of thousands of Hawaii residents; thus the increase in homelessness.

        • These are still fellow Americans and not refugees from the Middle East. How would you instate a blockade and differentiate who can fly to Hawaii? A residential cap and a moratorium on development would be nice though.

  • Oh shucks, I thought they meant Honolulu Hale which would have been great! P.S. The picnic tables with umbrellas seem dumb, particularly since as I recall there are no cooking facilities in the units. I could be wrong on that point.

  • This is a great first step and I hope it is a great success. However, I was put off by the “communities” where microneisans may want to live together. No. This is transitional. You build “communities” you’re never going to get people out and you are going to have gangs and trouble if you allow these ‘communities’. Its like we tell other immigrants..assimilate. If the micronesians dont want to live among the Hawaiians, Samoans, Whites, Asians, Black and Filipinos in these communities, they need not apply. Sorry Im so harsh.

  • A 60 day shell game. Kicked out and back on the streets after that. Seriously, if there were enough housing they would go right into a permanent housing complex, not some shipping container built for the election year.

    • iwaan–good point–that would be permanent housing. The Federal government moved thousands of them into the New Orleans after Katrina and what I read they are still there rotting. Now, if we had a Congressional Delegation!!!

  • Don’t forget to include this site as a attraction for our visitors. I mean, what else does Hawaii have to offer? Make way for the tourist buses to park there. How about inviting the trolley there, too?

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