Some 30 homeless teenagers per day now get to use a new bathroom, new washers and dryers, refrigerators, freezers and brightly painted lockers after Oahu builders pitched in to refurbish Waikiki’s Youth Outreach drop-in center.
The $49,000 worth of work and materials — including 144 lockers donated by the YMCA on Atkinson Drive — came from the efforts of 17 companies working together under the umbrella of HomeAid Hawaii, the country’s 17th nonprofit chapter of builders and developers trying to do good in their communities.
The local chapter incorporated in July 2015 and has found plenty of need among organizations trying to help Honolulu’s homeless.
At a ceremony Wednesday at Youth Outreach to unveil the renovations, HomeAid Hawaii members said their pro bono work shows that private businesses can make a dent in dealing with Hawaii’s homeless crisis.
“Private industry is stepping up. It’s good to see,” said Mitchell Imanaka, chairman of the local chapter of the American Resort Development Association, a trade organization of the time-share industry. “I’m sure we’re going to see a lot more projects down the road.”
The Hawaii ARDA chapter donated $1,000 for the Youth Outreach renovations and Imanaka told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that “this is a small way in trying to be part of the solution.”
It wasn’t hard to get members of HomeAid Hawaii to help Youth Outreach, said David Striph, president of HomeAid Hawaii’s board of directors and executive vice president-Hawaii for Howard Hughes Corp., whose Ward Village Foundation provided seed money for the Youth Outreach project.
“Everybody jumped on board immediately to pitch in and do our part for the community,” Striph said. “It has to be a group effort.”
In addition to the renovations at Youth Outreach, which also included a new medical exam table, furniture and outdoor drainage work, HomeAid Hawaii also donated $100,000 worth of renovations, materials and appliances to Tutu Bert’s home in Kalihi to make it ready for medically fragile homeless patients who otherwise would have no place to go after being treated at the Queen’s Medical Center.
HomeAid Hawaii members are also planning to refurbish the 30,000-square- foot leaking roof above Kakaako’s Next Step shelter by the end of this month.
Next Step’s original estimate for a new roof was $23,000. But, 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 has offered to donate all the materials and is charging $2,800 for the labor, said Nani Medeiros, HomeAid Hawaii’s executive director.
At Youth Outreach, program coordinator Alika Campbell said Wednesday that the 76-year-old home was “literally held together by termites, spit and duct tape in some places” until Jeff Prostor, president of Brookfield Residential Hawaii, volunteered to steer the renovations as the project’s building captain.
For the 30 homeless young people each day who eat a meal, wash their clothes, get medical treatment or receive help completing their general education degree, Campbell said, “YO is the closest thing they have to home.”
Youth Outreach serves teenagers who cannot check into traditional homeless shelters because of legal issues that include guardianship and parental approval.
Instead, at the end of each day, the teens and young adults have to leave Youth Outreach for the street.
At Wednesday’s ceremony unveiling the renovations and new appliances and furniture, Campbell thanked the builders who pitched in.
“It’s about the lives that you changed,” he said. “The community came together to support our kids.”
When she began meeting with Youth Outreach last summer, Medeiros learned more about the plight of homeless teenagers and young adults in Waikiki, downtown and Kakaako, who sometimes turn to street drugs simply to stay awake at night to ward off assaults and protect their belongings.
“Life on the street is tough and it’s dangerous,” Medeiros said. “So much more needs to be done.”