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City opens Iwilei rest stop for homeless

  • Video by Craig T. Kojima /

    Iwilei homeless can take a shower, do their laundry and pick up mail at the Punawai Rest Stop.


    The city’s Punawai Rest Stop is designed as a “zero barrier” facility where people don’t need to meet any criteria to use the available services.


    City and County of Honolulu officials held a blessing today for the city’s Punawai Rest Stop. These are the restrooms for men.

A place for Iwilei homeless to shower, do laundry, pick up mail and receive other services opened on Kuwili Street at noon today.

The city’s Punawai Rest Stop is designed as a “zero barrier” facility where people don’t need to meet any criteria to use the available services. The facility will is being operated through a $1 million, year-long contract with Mental Health Kokua, which also has been under contract with the city to provide a smaller, shower-and-restroom-only rest stop in Chinatown on Pauahi Street.

Punawai is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, said Surlester McBride, Punawai manager.

Included in the facility are 10 washers and 10 dryers, eight shower rooms and indoor toilets for visitors, and an area where visitors can meet with caseworkers and care providers. All toiletries will be provided free, from toothbrushes to disposable razors and even laundry detergent.

Punawai also provides computers and free Wi-Fi, as well as a pet-washing area.

The four-story Kuwili Street building was purchased by the city for $6.3 million in June 2016. The other floors, including services for those in need of medical and mental health needs, as well as studio units, are slated to open late this year or early next year, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said during a blessing this morning.

“This is part of a bigger dream that’s going to go on top of this ground floor,” the mayor said.

Caldwell credited area City Councilman Joey Manahan with shepherding the project. Manahan took the idea to Caldwell after visiting rest stop centers in Seattle.

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