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Sand Island homeless complex seen as a success

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    Dwayne Akiona greets the driver of a shuttle that has stopped to pick up passengers at the Hale Mauliola transitional housing complex at Sand Island. Akiona is inside a tentlike structure that serves as a community gathering place for the complex.

Nearly a year after Hale Mauliola’s opening, city leaders who once doubted it would work are calling the transitional housing complex a success — and they aim to expand the model to help address widespread homelessness on Oahu.

Some 105 people who’ve stayed in the converted shipping containers on Sand Island since November have found permanent housing elsewhere, officials said Tuesday.

By year’s end they plan to add six more converted containers to the existing 25. That would accommodate 21 more people at the so-called housing “navigation center,” which sits on a state-owned acre of land near where the Polynesian Voyaging Society docks its traditional sailing canoes.

Currently, Hale Mauliola’s 63 pastel-colored units accommodate up to 83 adults, who live there as couples or singles.

“This facility really has been a game-changer for us,” said Kimo Carvalho, community relations director for the Institute for Human Services, which partners with the city to run Hale Mauliola.

The facility’s less stringent requirements have contributed to the success so far, Carvalho and others said. Clients don’t have a curfew and can house their pets there, for example. They also have a spectrum of housing options from city, state and federal services, Carvalho added.

The city is looking at other sites for similar “containerized” transitional housing but hasn’t specified anything yet, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said. More sites like Hale Mauliola would certainly be useful, city Housing Office Executive Director Jun Yang said.

“Our homeless clients need more help,” Yang said Tuesday. “Places like this would help them find housing. The demand is there.”

Nonetheless, Oahu still faces greater, long-term challenges of where to eventually house the bulk of its homeless residents. This year’s point-in-time count found the island’s homeless population grew by about 1 percent to 4,940. Statewide, Hawaii has been found to have the largest homeless population per capita in the nation.

Meanwhile, Oahu requires some 20,000 additional affordable rental units to keep up with its overall housing needs, based on official estimates. “We have such a tight market here” for housing, Yang noted Tuesday.

“It’s certainly exceeding my expectations, our expectations as a city,” City Councilman Joey Manahan said Tuesday of Hale Mauliola. Previously, Manahan, whose district includes Sand Island, had expressed opposition to the facility, saying it lacked a clear strategy to put homeless residents into permanent housing.

In April he told Hawaii News Now that he would prefer the city allow homeless to live in their cars on the property instead of in shipping containers. On Tuesday he said Hale Mauliola is at the “forefront” compared with similar facilities around the U.S.

Caldwell lauded Manahan’s “political courage” in eventually supporting Hale Mauliola.

“Many, many people — including, I have to say, me, as mayor — questioned whether this navigation center would work,” Caldwell said Tuesday. “We wanted to see what would happen.”

Hale Mauliola client Al Saenz said he’s confident he’ll find a permanent home after relocating there from Kakaako Waterfront Park about a month and a half ago. The navigation center’s staff, he said, is helping him to replace his state identification and other paperwork after he lost it during city sweeps to enforce Honolulu’s sit-lie ban on sidewalks.

“I know the difference between the other shelters and this one, and this one’s really working,” he said. “It’s more flexible for the people. It’s going to work.”

The facility’s lease with the state expires September 2018. City officials already say they’ll pursue an extension.

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    • Having the homeless drift around town would be a higher price. And do not forget that IHS has job training and placement assistance as well as transportation to jobs. I wish the City and private donors would do more projects on Sand Island like this.

      • Just join them. I propose squatting Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s historic home which he pays hardly any property taxes on. Break in while he’s away, move in and keep your camera rolling. Would love to see the video go viral as he opens his kind heart and words to welcome your to stay the night at Chateau Scrooge!

        • Forgot to post the address.
          Don’t forget to catch Bus #5. It stops just a block away from his his historic million dollar home!

          2726 Hillside Ave., Manoa
          » Assessed value: $1,849,100
          » Owner: Kirk Caldwell, Donna Tanoue
          » Home size: 2,928 square feet
          » Year built: 1917
          » Homeowner comment: The residence is visible from Hillside and Oahu avenues and from a public right-of-way along one side of the property. Visitors were welcomed to the home as part of the 2009 Historic Homes Walking Tour in Manoa.
          Property taxes:
          2001: $1,991
          2002: $2,190
          2003: $2,467
          2004: $2,726
          2005: $5,479
          2006: $100
          2007: $100
          2008: $100
          2009: $100
          2010: $300


        • Like I mentioned about two weeks ago his home was classified as historic so he doesn’t care if property taxes goes up.

  • The money would go further purchasing housing on the mainland where the cost of living is much lower, and sending the homeless there. If they stay in Hawaii, they will ALWAYS be homeless, because the cost of living is just too high. Is the goal to get them to self-sufficiency, or is the goal to keep them on handouts forever? Our politicians seem to think it’s the latter. Another question is how many people who want to live in Hawaii for free, can Hawaii’s taxpayers actually afford? Our politicians seem to think the answer is “unlimited.” That’s why I feel sorry for future generations who will be living in a third world toilet, in what was once paradise.

    • In some countries like in North Korea they are referred to the bad and evil word “communists”. On Gilligan’s Island, they try to be very sensitive to the “commie” word and label themselves as Democrats. There’s no difference, both rob the hard working productive people and distribute half the assets to the drunks, junkies and sheer inept. In the end, all suffer.

  • where are all those old homeless advocates who claimed that the is project would not work and be bad for the people living there? you guys were totally wrong and your criticisms only impeded the city solutions to homelessness. you were only screwing it up for the homeless. stay out and shut up.

      • According to IHS who runs the place the averge stay is 60 days after which the residents transition to place like permanent housing, treatment facility, or with family and friends. Some have gone back to the mainland. Remember that Hale Mauliola was NEVER billed as a permanent housing project. It was a “navigation center” where people got off the streets and were then “navigated” to a more permanent solution. What seems to make it work is a low barriers approach, people come and go as they please, they can bring their pets, they can’t drink on site, but they can off site. A lot of the guys who come there will not go to a traditional shelter. There was a lot of people who were skeptical of the project. I don’t think there is any gloating, but they are trying to expand the place which is a good idea.

        • 1 down 7,000 to go which isn’t including the hundreds being added to the growing list coming in from the mainland every quarter! Nice try to ease the blow, but sadly not a cost effective solution as you make it out to be. There are far better solutions that you should be promoting like offering them cheap homes on the mainland where they can actually afford if they get a job unlike in HI where cost to own/rent or even survive is prohibitive for those in low low economic situations.

    • It is at least an attempt to provide a transition to get them back into the mainstream. While I don’t like the overall situation at least there are those who “need help” and those who “want to help”…thank you…for speaking out on their behalf. I’ll share this thought with all, “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” Martin Luther King Jr.

  • I was walking my dogs this morning in Waianae and witnessed an elderly homeless man defecating on the side of the road in broad daylight. Are these people worth saving?

    • Unfortunately this is something I do not appreciate witnessing myself. But there are those who are mentally disturbed and need help. I don’t claim to understand the nuances of why they cannot be required to get help…a typical response will be their “Civil Rights” would be violated…really? For their own well being perhaps laws (exceptions) things need to be evaluated and change for the benefit of the “Community” and the individual in your comment would be included. 🙂

        • It’s easy to pass judgement on the less fortunate…

          “Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.” Herman Melville

          Can you provide a partial solution (there is no perfect) to the problem?

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