‘Kauhale’ housing clusters hold promise
A promising state-driven initiative for the homeless took some guidance from a successful program called “Community First!” that started in Austin, Texas.
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A promising state-driven initiative for the homeless took some guidance from a successful program called “Community First!” that started in Austin, Texas. The additional appeal of the “kauhale” concept is that it also derives a lot from Hawaii’s various cultures, and thus seems a good solution for individuals and families living unsheltered today.
However, it only will deliver that solution if the larger community steps up in a big way. This could be a major “make it work” moment in the islands’ homelessness crisis.
The first cluster of 10 homes is being built in Kalaeloa aimed especially at housing homeless military veterans. This, officials hope, will help to inspire the realization of a full network, on sites identified so far in Waianae, Waimanalo, near Nimitz Highway and Middle Street and Kaneohe.
Kauhale is variously translated as “village,” “hamlet” or “settlement.” But more specifically, historically it was a kind of shared community with common spaces for cooking and other activities, as well as secure, private places for sleeping.
The concept fits well within the Native Hawaiian tradition, and borrows some of the elements of the plantation-style villages that were familiar in a past era. Kahauiki Village, the plantation-style community built near Keehi Lagoon, has illustrated that potential.
It also is suited to a public-private partnership, in that each kauhale is a collection of “tiny homes” that can involve participation by multiple donors.
Encouragingly, some of those donations are starting to come in, funneled through HomeAid Hawaii, the building industry’s nonprofit that works to relieve homelessness. Besides the contributions toward erecting the tiny homes, there have been donations of services such as landscape design that have materialized.
Much more help is required (contact: Nani Medeiros of HomeAid Hawaii at email@example.com). The land is owned by the state, but not all of it is housing-ready. Some sites will need clearing and infrastructure. And a private nonprofit will be needed to be the principal operators of each site, providing management and security.
Beyond the needed private assistance, the kauhale approach would be a logical beneficiary of some of the county-level initiatives, such as the funding set aside for each district represented by the Honolulu City Council.
And today, Lt. Gov. Josh Green will meet with state lawmakers to feel out the likelihood of further seed money from the Legislature in the coming session, said Brooke Wilson, Green’s chief of staff.
Green, also a medical doctor, has taken on homelessness as his focal project. Each kauhale would have a health-care component run by a nonprofit partner, the Hawaii Homeless Healthcare Hui (H4), Wilson added. One of the tiny-home units would be dedicated as a clinic, much like the Joint Outreach Centers that have been established by the hui.
The target population would be the chronically homeless individuals who are the most frequent users of emergency medical services, Wilson said, those who would be most in need of stabilization — permanent housing being part of their wellness plan.
The hope then would be that they could be able to move back with family, or into a unit available in the subsidized Housing First homelessness program, she said.
There is a lot of work remaining to create this housing option. Lawmakers meeting today should assess the incentives available to draw more private donors.
The larger community is called to embrace the opportunity. This is a sector of Hawaii’s homeless who, rather than being left on the margins, should be brought into the fold.