Red Hill’s First Assembly of God church wants to erect a dozen igloo-shaped domes from Alaska to create a “shelter village” somewhere in town for about 40 homeless people.
Klayton Ko, the church’s senior pastor and the district superintendent of more than 100 Hawaii Assembly of God congregations, hopes Mayor Kirk Caldwell follows through on his pledge to clear permitting issues for churches that want to house the homeless.
Caldwell’s offer to church leaders last year — along with a promise to provide housing in the form of converted shipping containers — was meant to help them adopt a single homeless family on church property.
But that’s not First Assembly of God’s plan.
Today, Ko and Pastor Daniel Kaneshiro, who serves as facilities pastor and director of First Assembly of God’s startup homeless program, will show off the first dome, which is currently sitting in the church’s courtyard, and unveil the shelter village concept to the media and to Jun Yang, executive director of the city’s Office of Housing.
“We as a church are looking for a solution that we can offer the community,” Ko said.
Kaneshiro has no intention of replicating the work of Oahu’s homeless shelters, particularly the Institute of Human Services, which provides a range of help, from substance abuse counseling to job training and medical services.
“We cannot do what they’re doing,” Kaneshiro said. “We’re trying to identify our own niche.”
Those who could move into the domes would not need to be church members, Kaneshiro said, but they “have to be willing to change internally” and God has to represent “a spiritual aspect,” he said.
Ko hopes to buy 11 more of the 12-foot-tall, 314-square-foot “spherical domes” from Juneau, Alaska, at a bulk rate of $9,500 each, to house up to four people per dome. One of the 12 domes would be used as a shower/bathroom, and another would serve as a communal kitchen.
Ko said the shelter village could not be located on the church’s Red Hill property because it’s near a school.
“The liability issue is still real,” Ko said.
Some of the igloo-shaped structures could be erected on church-owned land in Kahaluu, but Ko hopes that the state, city or a private landowner provides at least an acre or two of land in town — perhaps through a low-cost lease — because that is where Ko believes the greatest need for housing exists.
First Assembly of God members already provide food to the homeless and have donated $100,000 to make a bigger dent in reducing the country’s highest per capita homeless rate, Ko said.
In July, Ko got the idea to actually provide housing via the domes. “The Lord put that concept in my heart,” he said.
Among his duties, Ko also serves on Hawaii’s pastors’ roundtable and hopes other churches “sponsor” a homeless family by paying for one or more domes.
Don Kubley, president and CEO of Juneau-based InterShelter Inc., which sold the first dome to First Assembly of God, said the domes can be assembled with just a screwdriver and wrench in three hours, using only fiberglass panels and marine-grade, stainless-steel nuts and bolts that will not rust.
Ko ideally would like to use the domes to house working homeless mothers and their children who have few issues other than the inability to afford long-term housing.
He has no intention of targeting hard-core, “chronic” homeless who often have alcohol, drug or mental health issues.
“If they’re abusing drugs, that’s a different level of social services we’re not prepared for,” Ko said.
He envisions the village being democratically run by the residents and protected by security.
The families would be required to pay a nominal fee or work off their fee through some form of community service, just as IHS and other shelters have them do.
Ko ideally would take in highly functional clients who transition out of IHS, which would clear bed space at IHS.
Once in the church’s igloo-shaped domes, Ko hopes to see the formerly homeless families stabilized and moving on to longer-term housing within a year.
“This issue is so complicated,” Ko said, “we cannot have one approach.”