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Nonprofit leverages expertise to benefit homeless

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    HomeAid Hawaii is renovating “Tutu Bert’s” home in Kalihi for the medically fragile homeless who have recently been discharged from hospitals. The original estimate for the work was $100,000, but the group brought it down to zero through donated labor and materials. On Tuesday, Gordon Ortiz, director of operations for IHS, which runs “Tutu Bert’s” home, showed the deterioration of the stainless-steel sink that was originally in the house. He said that it will have to be replaced.


    Joezer Dace worked on renovations for “Tutu Bert’s” home Tuesday, cutting what will be the support for the bathroom sink countertop.

A new, nonprofit group of Hawaii builders and developers is doing its part to ease homelessness on Oahu by patching the roof at Kakaako’s Next Step shelter, refurbishing a Kalihi home for medically fragile clients and upgrading Waikiki’s Youth Outreach drop-in center.

Plus, HomeAid Hawaii, which took shape eight months ago, is dramatically cutting costs for its first three projects by leveraging building industry contacts.

For instance, the Institute of Human Services estimated it would cost $100,000 to overhaul “Tutu Bert’s” home in Kalihi to make it ready for medically fragile homeless clients with no place to go.

Nani Medeiros, Home­Aid Hawaii’s executive director, said, “They came to us with quite an extensive list of various things to do: flooring, the kitchen, closet doors, lighting fixtures, bathrooms. And they need to make it all ADA compliant.”

Three of HomeAid Hawaii’s board members representing Stanford Carr Development, Castle & Cooke and A&B Properties volunteered to serve as “building captains” for the Tutu Bert’s project and brought the cost down to zero through donated work and materials, Medeiros said.

“It’s not going to cost IHS anything,” she said.

Companies that are donating workers or materials include Ohana Building Supply, Island Flooring, Commercial Plumbing, JBL, M. Watanabe Electrical, Servco Inc., Tru-Door, Ceramic Tile Plus, Ferguson Plumbing and Coastal Construction, Medeiros said.

IHS spokesman Kimo Carvalho called the effort by HomeAid Hawaii “amazing.”

“From a philanthropy perspective, it’s not just about giving money,” Carvalho said. “You can solve the homeless crisis by putting in your expertise. The developers know how to do materials purchasing and installation better than anyone. It makes an impact.”

In Kakaako the Next Step shelter got an initial quote of $23,000 to patch its leaking, 30,000-square-foot roof, said Lambert Lum, director of shelter services.

The roof leaks “in multiple places, some above resident beds,” and buckets are often pressed into service, Lum wrote in an email.

As he did with the Tutu Bert’s project, Castle & Cooke President Harry Saunders volunteered to serve as building captain for the new roof. Commercial Roofing & Waterproofing Hawaii then offered to donate all of the materials and is charging $2,800 for the labor.

“That’s exactly how the model works,” Medeiros said. “We use our board members to use their relationships with people in the industry they know. Hopefully they’ll want to do it more because it addresses a huge problem in our community, and they have the expertise.”

HomeAid Hawaii and officials representing the city and the nonprofits that will benefit from the repair projects will hold a news conference today at the youth drop-in center in Waikiki.

Details on the Youth Outreach project are still in the works, and no building captain has stepped forward yet. But Medeiros estimates the effort will cost roughly $15,000.

The center needs work inside and out, including new washers and dryers, fixtures for the bathroom and kitchen, a ventilation system, security for lockers where kids store their belongings, and some sort of outdoor cover to protect storage bins for donated clothes, Medeiros said.

“Plumbing issues continue to plague the old house in Waikiki,” said Mary Beth Lohman, spokeswoman for Waikiki Health, which operates both Next Step and the Youth Outreach center. “The repairs may include digging a new drainage ditch, replacing the current kitchen sink, bathroom faucets and leaking toilets. We have also asked for more efficient storage and better ventilation in the living room of the house.”

All three projects — from Kalihi to Kakaako to Waikiki — are expected to be finished before June, Medeiros said.

“When you have the private sector involved, it’s so much faster and so much more efficient,” Medeiros said. “Government can’t solve this problem alone, and it’s not government’s problem alone.”

HomeAid Hawaii is the 17th chapter of the national nonprofit group HomeAid America, which partners with local building associations, builders and developers to address homelessness in their communities by working with nonprofit organizations that help the homeless.

In the islands HomeAid Hawaii is partnering with the Building Industry Association of Hawaii.

Medeiros believes that other Hawaii companies can come up with their own projects to help ease homelessness.

“Our model is something other industries can do,” she said. “You just have to find the niche where your industry can help, rather than having government try to solve the problem.”

To get involved, visit or call Medeiros at 497-1106.

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