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Hawaii News

Lease for successful homeless housing center is extended

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Gov. David Ige talked Monday with a resident at the Hale Mauliola transitional housing complex.

The city’s first homeless “navigation center” has taken in 616 people from the streets in three years of operation on Sand Island, and the state Board of Land and Natural Resources has extended a sweetheart lease of $1 a year for another four years, Gov. David Ige and Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced Monday.

The lease extension means “four more years of … giving people a chance to start their lives over again,” Caldwell said at a noon press conference.

Caldwell was joined at Hale Mauliola by Ige and Council members Kymberly Pine, Ikaika Anderson and Joey Manahan, whose Iwilei district includes Hale Mauliola and many of the most recent homeless “tools in the toolbox,” as Manahan described them.

Anderson praised efforts to help the homeless by Caldwell, which include Hale Mauliola and even purchasing apartment buildings to provide permanent homes.

“The Caldwell administration has made great strides in providing shelter and housing options,” Anderson said.

Anderson told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that he hopes to replicate the Hale Mauliola model in Waima­nalo.

“Land is the issue,” he said. “But this model works — for those folks who are willing to take advantage of what they’re being offered.”

Ige looked at Hale Mauliola on Monday through the lens of providing emergency housing for the hundreds of people displaced by the ongoing Kilauea eruption on Hawaii island.

Hale Mauliola just added new showers and toilets and six new shipping containers for housing that will increase Hale Mauliola’s capacity to 104 single adults, couples and their dogs.

Hale Mauliola opened as an experiment on Nov. 19, 2015, with just 19 initial residents living in converted shipping containers while being offered an array of social service assistance, including substance abuse treatment, jobs and permanent housing.

Hale Mauliola represented the first of several new and different approaches to reducing island homelessness that rapidly came online after state Rep. Tom Brower (D, Waikiki-Ala Moana-Kakaako) was chased and beaten while photographing an outlaw homeless encampment that swelled to more than 300 people in the summer of 2015 as Hawaii struggled with the highest per capita homeless rate in the nation.

Out of 556 people who left Hale Mauliola, nearly half — or 267 — have moved on to “stable housing,” said Connie Mitchell, executive director of the Institute for Human Services, which runs Hale Mauliola for the city.

Since then Hawaii’s overall homeless population has had two consecutive annual decreases of 9 percent.

And Honolulu and state officials have overseen an array of programs and housing projects, including the state’s Family Assessment Center for homeless families, which emerged out of an old storage shed in the aftermath of the Kakaako encampment.

The city and state’s collaboration with businessman Duane Kurisu — Kahauiki Village on the makai side of Nimitz Highway — is even a model of public-private partnerships that Katy Miller, Seattle-based regional coordinator for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, is talking up among West Coast cities struggling with their own homeless populations.

“We’ve made some steps forward, and we need to not slow down,” Miller said. “Hawaii over the last couple of years has figured out what needs to happen.”

Last month Miller authored a U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness paper titled “Caution Is Needed When Considering ‘Sanctioned Encampments’ or ‘Safe Zones.’”

Every West Coast community that has created government-sanctioned “safe zones” — or so-called tent cities — to reduce their homeless populations promises that they will only be temporary, Miller said. But none of them has ever shut down, and often face unintended costs repairing makeshift structures and dealing with security, she said.

Ige said Monday that he is still considering a $30 million spending bill the Legislature sent him to create undefined “ohana zones.”

“We have to focus on the things that work,” Ige told the Star-Advertiser.

Rather than a temporary tent city, Kahauiki Village could be a model for successful “ohana zones” because it provides permanent, affordable housing for homeless families living in prefabricated modular homes, Miller said.

There is on-site child care, and every adult is offered employment nearby.

Miller toured Kahauiki Village on Father’s Day and was impressed by the plantation era-based community Kurisu has created.

“It felt like home,” she said. “It is permanent housing.”

For people in Hawaii frustrated by island homelessness, Miller said:

“Tell folks to not be distracted and really focus on the things that we know work,” she said. “You’ve had success and you’ve shown success, and you have the data to back it up.”

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