In seven months the Hale Mauliola homeless shelter on Sand Island has managed to get 61 individuals into permanent housing, but perhaps the greatest benefit is the lessons learned from the first-of-its-kind project that can be translated to other homeless projects in the future, according to Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
Hale Mauliola, located just past the drawbridge at Sand Island Parkway, has been up and running for 220 days and served 173 homeless individuals to date. On Monday morning legislators, nonprofit organizers, shelter residents and others gathered for a blessing of the area and recognition of progress.
The shelter is Hawaii’s first “housing navigation center,” part of the city and county’s goal to move homeless from the streets into shelters, then into temporary housing such as Hale Mauliola and finally into permanent housing.
Caldwell said it’s part of “the journey of moving the needle” in the fight to end Hawaii homelessness.
“It really gives me hope that this model can work in other areas,” Caldwell said. “This is not the end of what we’re going to be doing.”
Hale Mauliola housed its first set of residents in mid-November. Most residents who enter the shelter move on to stable housing rather quickly, with the average length of stay being 50 days.
Clayton Gohier, 75, has been living at Hale Mauliola for six months after being homeless in Waikiki, and is expected to move into his new apartment within the next two weeks.
“Coming here it was like being reborn,” Gohier said. “It’s clean, good surroundings, nice coming home to something like that. I’m lucky, very lucky.”
According to the executive director of the Institute for Human Services, Connie Mitchell, 80 people currently live in the shipping container complex, which has a maximum capacity of 83, and there are 20 more people “waiting in the wings” to come in as more residents move into permanent housing “this week.”
“We are laser-focused on transitioning people into permanent housing,” Mitchell said. “We expect everyone who comes in here to work with our staff or their case manager to actually go into housing.”
Unlike most homeless shelters on Oahu, Hale Mauliola allows couples to live together and residents to own pets. It provides parking space for those who live in their cars. The alternative policies are intended to reduce barriers for entry into shelters, as hindrances such as the inability to bring pets often turn off homeless individuals.
There are also a few other “homey” touches, including Wi-Fi internet, landscaping, a barbecue area and picnic tables. The Central Hale tent where Monday’s blessing was held is a place for residents to socialize. Daily meals, phone and mail service as well as 24/7 security are also a part of the amenities.
An array of homeless services is available to residents such as employment support services, housing placement assistance, case management, health and behavioral services, and even pet screenings and resources through the Hawaiian Humane Society.
Thus far Hale Mauliola has made room for 18 four-legged guests without any reported incidents, making the pet allowance policy a likely consideration for future projects, and as for services offered, Caldwell said the results “speak for themselves.”
Caldwell also mentioned the city is looking into “tiny home” concepts and modular housing for future homeless resolution ideas, as opposed to the typical “brick-and-mortar building” that can be time-consuming and expensive.
“I want to go quicker. We need to show this community that we can actually reduce homelessness,” Caldwell said. “Until they see there are no longer homeless in Kakaako Gateway Park or along Nimitz Highway and other areas, they’re going to feel the problem has not been dealt with.”
As for the future of Hale Mauliola, the project was originally planned to receive funding and operate for only two years, but Caldwell said it is likely to keep running beyond that time frame.
“It’s just fantastic. We are making a dent in our homeless challenge,” Caldwell said. “I can’t see it not continuing.”