The first-ever public-private partnership was launched today on O’ahu to provide permanent housing for homeless families. The project took two years from inception to breaking ground. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.
A blessing and ground breaking ceremony was conducted for Kahau’iki Village, located off Nimitz Highway between Ke’ehi Lagoon Park and Sand Island. The village will provide permanent housing for homeless families and is the vision of Duane Kurisu, who grew up in Hakalau on the Big Island and is the founder of the non-profit aio Foundation.
“My brother growing up would say, cheez, you know, maybe we would have been homeless ourselves without growing up in a plantation camp because rent for my mother and father was $23 a month and water was a dollar a month or a dollar a year, I can’t remember. And we all lived comfortably. And we could say even if our houses didn’t look too nice, at least we can say we lived with dignity.”
Kurisu says the state, county, private companies and the military, will donate money, materials, time and services to build150 one and two bedroom modular homes. When completed, the village will house more than 600 adults and children, half of the homeless families on O’ahu. The state turned over the 11-acre parcel to the City and County of Honolulu and Mayor Kirk Caldwell added additional resources.
“We took the land from the state through an executive order and then we leased it to aio Foundation at a dollar a year. And then we contributed $3.6 million in terms of infrastructure improvement, sewer lines, water lines. And we put it in for them. And we’re ready to do even more can do more to make sure this is a complete and absolute success.”
The modular building units come from Japan, where they were used to provide shelter for the 2011 Japan tsunami victims. Institute for Human Services executive director, Connie Mitchell, says IHS will screen the families and oversee case management and social services.
“We are looking for families who are motivated. Who are working. We are looking right now for the ones with younger children, you know, more so. But anybody who’s very motivated. We want them to have a chance.”
Village residents will be offered jobs and a child care center will be built. Rent will range from $900 a month for a 2 bedroom to $725 for a one bedroom. The rent includes water, electricity, gas and WiFi. Governor David Ige says the state is committed to partner in this project to provide stability for the homeless.
“I think the fundamental importance is that this is not emergency shelters. This is permanent, supportive housing that people can call home. That we can provide additional services that will allow them to become contributing members in our community.”
The First of 30 units, with photovoltaic electricity, is scheduled for completion and move-in by the end of the year. Kurisu says the sugar plantation-style Village will provide a new beginning.
“It’s a dream come true, hopefully, for those who maybe felt powerless and disenfranchised. We want children to see a brighter future for themselves and to live with dignity.”
For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.