Homeless hustle: Emergency Village 9 site may be available as early as May

  • The proposed Village 9 and affordable housing project site, colored in green with the serial number ending in 004, is shown as part of the area of the Kealakehe Regional Park, numbered 007. The MOU areas are areas identified as environmentally sensitive. The intersection at the top is Ane Keohokalole Highway and Kealakehe Parkway. (Courtesy map)

KAILUA-KONA — A large-scale emergency homeless site in West Hawaii may be operational inside of four months, as Hawaii County has made the preliminary development of Village 9 off Kealakehe Parkway in Kona a high priority for the upcoming year.

County officials and service providers convened Friday at the West Hawaii Civic Center to discuss the first concrete steps toward the development of Village 9 and the state’s accompanying affordable housing project on the same land parcel, all of which will be situated immediately adjacent to the long awaited Kealakehe Regional Park.

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PBR Hawaii and Associates, Inc. is conducting the master planning and environmental assessment for all three projects. Several elements of the master planning need to be completed before the EA can commence.

However, PBR Hawaii’s current schedule has the EA slotted for completion by the middle of December. How quickly the state’s affordable housing component can move forward after that depends on several issues, including the availability of water and sewer services as well as other factors.

As for the Village 9 component, the full build out won’t be undertaken until the EA is complete. Roy Takemoto, executive assistant to Mayor Harry Kim, said the county plans to use the joint EA as a way to engage the community for feedback on the homeless component of the development. He added the county won’t “force” the permanent homeless site “down the community’s throat.”

But because of Gov. David Ige’s recent emergency proclamation on homelessness, a roughly 5-acre portion of a 15-acre parcel Village 9 will encompass can be developed before an EA is completed. Takemoto said the county plans to take full advantage of that leverage to move forward.

Based on PBR Hawaii’s schedule, the site may be ready for occupancy as early as May. Takemoto said the infrastructure for the emergency component, which wouldn’t be permanent, would either be 10 x 12 sheds or fire retardant tents.

It’s too early in the design process to determine the capacity of the emergency area, but HOPE Services CEO Brandee Menino said there are currently 113 homeless singles on Hawaii Island in the Homeless Management Information System who have expressed interest in housing. More than 500 singles in the system have not gotten that far.

There are also 24 families in the county’s database interested in housing, though only two live in Kona. She said at any one time there are roughly 130 homeless in the county ready for housing, though housing availability is consistently and significantly short to accommodate those needs.

A services component, including mental health and drug abuse counseling, are necessary for any project funded through the state’s new Ohana Zone program, which county officials expect will pay for the full build out of Village 9 and provide operational funding for up to three years.

If physical infrastructure can’t be developed in time to accompany the opening of the emergency housing component, service provider Community Alliance Partners will make site visits until permanent construction is complete.

As for Kealakehe Regional Park, county funds are paying for its master planning and EA. Maurice Messina, deputy director of the county Department of Parks and Recreation, said once completed, it may be accurately described as the island’s “crown jewel.”

Some at the meeting Friday, however, questioned the wisdom of placing such a resource immediately adjacent to a large-scale, permanent homeless camp and how the department can make sure it doesn’t become a newer version of Old Airport Park — an area across which homeless have caused disarray for several years.

Messina conceded that would be a challenge but that Parks plans to implement security. He said a pilot project at Lincoln Park in Hilo has rendered positive results, as did the security component at Old Airport Park before the county could no longer afford to fund it.

The department currently budgets $400,000 annually for security, but that number is for the entire island. Prioritizing location security and finding the funds to keep a handle on homeless impact at Kealakehe Regional Park, as well as others across the island, will be an ongoing challenge to which the answers aren’t immediately obvious.

Messina said park caretakers are now trained in how to deal with homeless and spend 80 percent of their time dealing with those issues.

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The county convened an afternoon meeting Friday to tackle the problem of enforcement throughout the homeless community, as well as how to incentivize participation in Village 9 for those who may be reluctant.

West Hawaii Today will present a separate article on those discussions Tuesday.

  1. LOL in Kona January 14, 2019 5:25 am

    Haaa, Haaa, Haaa: got’ya!
    Raise the water, sewer, road, etc taxes
    …and give to the leeches, loafers, druggies, etc
    …..who “retire” to Hawaii, cuz it is “too hard” to be in Calif!
    Of the 40,000 Big Island food stamp folk,
    …. at least “some” are not druggies!


  2. Bone Crusher January 14, 2019 6:07 am

    Thank goodness! Anything to get some of the zombies out of the downtown area.


    1. 4whatitsworth January 14, 2019 9:05 am

      Once complete they will provide tax payer subsidized bus service to and from downtown so it will probably increase the homeless population there.


      1. Bone Crusher January 14, 2019 12:53 pm

        Oh great.


  3. Big ideas January 14, 2019 7:09 am

    He added the county won’t “force” the permanent homeless site “down the community’s throat.”

    REALLY?!

    So, County Council and Mr. Mayor – when is the general referendum scheduled for a vote?

    Funny – all I see is work already commencing on a project that no one voted for ….a bit azzbakwards don’t you think?


    1. Scooby January 14, 2019 8:12 am

      This is the Mayor placing blame on the people if there is opposition to the project. The whole administration thinks like that, blame someone else. I just read the Alii Drive bridge work where the engineer said the State could put a stop to the project. Aren’t they working together? Blame and delay the Harry Kim way.


  4. Kaipo Wall January 14, 2019 8:18 am

    I guess they have to put them somewhere . How about on planes , back to the mainland , where most came from . Take care the locals , 86 the rest .


  5. Buds4All January 14, 2019 8:27 am

    What are they trying to Make this the cornerstone of Tourism in Kona. Look come see our bums who are juiced out of their minds. iDIOTS!


  6. KonaDude January 14, 2019 8:28 am

    Paradise should be free for everyone ( . Y . )


  7. 4whatitsworth January 14, 2019 8:50 am

    This is clearly a formula for success, build it and they will come! Just look at what the homeless housing has done for the Kona Brewing area and downtown!

    This is an even a better idea.. build homeless housing next to a high school, where middle class neighborhood is supposed to be, next put in a public park so that there is a place for old and new druggies/homeless to congregate. Next put in Department of Economic Security office next to the area and educate all to work the system. Finally get the ACLU involved to start suing everyone that tries to prevent this.


  8. Uncle Kokomo January 14, 2019 9:26 am

    Right next to the high school. Great idea!


  9. metalman808 January 14, 2019 9:37 am

    What are they doing for us the tax payers. What do we get for FREE. Nothing get back to work.


  10. Frank M. Pelteson January 14, 2019 1:21 pm

    Hawaii has been communistic ever since the days of Harry Bridges’ Longshoremen. Nothing new here except the uninformed, uneducated new generation.


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