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Micro-housing shelters dedicated for displaced Lower Puna residents

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The Sacred Heart Shelter containing 20 housing units was blessed Saturday in Pahoa.

Community organizers celebrated the spirit of collaboration Saturday as they officially dedicated a new micro-housing facility for residents displaced by the ongoing lava flow in Lower Puna.

The Sacred Heart Shelter, composed of 20 120-square-foot “tiny houses,” was erected in less than a month on land located below Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Pahoa.

Brandee Menino, CEO of Hope Services Hawaii, a nonprofit that operates the largest homeless shelter on Hawaii island, said the project came together swiftly thanks to the cooperative efforts of community groups.

“It takes a community; there’s no way Hope Serv­ices could do this on their own,” Menino told the audience. “And look what happened: In less than 30 days, with one vision and one leadership build team, this happened.”

The project was initiated by Gilbert Aguinaldo, a Pahoa resident and member of Puuhonua o Puna, a community organization dedicated to assisting those impacted by the lava flow, and Darryl Oliveira, former Hawaii County Fire Department chief, former Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator and current manager at HPM Building Supply.

The two men worked with Hope Services Hawaii and the Roman Catholic Church Diocese of Honolulu to secure a plot of land, owned by the church and leased by Hope Services, on Pahoa Village Road across from Pahoa High and Intermediate School.

The team then worked with the Hawaii County Mayor’s Office, the Hawaii County Planning Department, and the Hawaii County Corporation Counsel to secure an emergency proclamation that allowed the project to move ahead without normal building requirements.

Funding for the project came from a $75,000 grant from Hawaii Island United Way and a $25,000 donation on behalf of Hu Honua Bioenergy.

Hundreds of volunteers joined members of the Hawaii National Guard in constructing the temporary homes.

More than 60 households applied for temporary housing at the shelter. Priority was given to people older than 60 years and families with children younger than 18.

The units are not equipped with electricity or running water, but residents have access to two facilities that have a sink, toilet and shower.

Project Vision Hawaii loaned a mobile hygiene trailer, shipped for free by Young Brothers, to support the initial move-in.

Several other local businesses donated labor and supplies to help establish the shelter, including Puna Growers Supply, which donated landscaping services, and T&T Electric, which donated a solar-energy system.

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>> Lava blocks access to favorite Hawaii island shoreline sites
>> Charter school co-founder looks to future after eruption
>> Closed voting sites and early absentee ballots raise concerns in Puna
>> Hula conference, chants to Pele coincide with the eruption
>> Kilauea eruption has cost state, county more than $5.8M
>> Lava output far outpaces previous eruptions
>> For National Guard, lava disaster presents real-world mission

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