HILO — An infusion of state money is helping kickstart the transformation of a vacant lot at the corner of Kealakehe Parkway and Ane Keohokalole Highway into a homeless village.
Village 9, as it has been named, will share space on the 35.7-acre lot with an affordable housing development operated by the state.
Planning expenses to be funded by the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation include the cost to develop a master plan and environmental assessment for both the homeless facility and the affordable rental project to ensure an integrated planning and assessment of the two interrelated projects.
The County Council approved a resolution Wednesday allowing the mayor to enter into an agreement with the state that brings $184,000 to county coffers to pay for planning expenses.
The HHFDC board on Jan. 11 agreed to pay the expenses and to lease 15-20 acres to the county for Village 9.
Roy Takemoto, an executive assistant to Mayor Harry Kim, estimated the process would take about seven months, enabling the county to begin construction by the end of the year.
The county’s plan for Village 9 was developed after Kim ordered police to evict dozens of homeless illegally residing at Old Kona Airport Park. Initial plans called for permanent housing for at least 100 of West Hawaii’s homeless residents. Roughly 30 of those homeless residents live at Camp Kikaha in the Old Kona Industrial Area, adjacent to HOPE Services Hawaii.
“I know Camp Kikaha can’t stay there for that much longer,” said Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha. “I’m glad to see (Village 9) finally come up and hopefully it won’t take a really long time. … But we have a starting point.”
Council members sought assurance that the public will have the chance to comment on the project before it’s constructed.
Takemoto said there will be community outreach in conjunction with the environmental assessment process. After that, there will be more public input as a master plan is developed, he said.
Lance Niimi, Kim’s executive assistant, specializing in homelessness, on Tuesday presented a 52-page homeless plan to the council Committee on Human Services and Social Services.
The county plans to use what it’s learned on the Village 9 project to work to find sites and build assessment centers in Hilo, Pahoa and Ka‘u, where annual Point in Time counts show the need is greatest. In the most recent count, Hilo had the greatest number of homeless individuals, while Ka‘u had the highest number of homeless individuals in families.
Much of the funding will come from the state, which provides emergency shelter stipends to the shelter provider, provided minimum requirements are met relating to number of showers and bathrooms, minimum area of partitioned space and storage, Niimi said.