Users of Honolulu hygiene center increase over month

HONOLULU — The number of people using a hygiene center in Honolulu has steadily increased during closely one month of operation.

Daily users of the Punawai Rest Stop have grown from the eight people recorded on the facility’s first day last month to 174 last week, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported .

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The facility primarily serves people who are homeless by offering free showers, washers and dryers, mail service, pet kennels, internet access and storage.

Prince Gregg, 37, was using one of the rest stop’s computers while his cellphone charged Friday.

“I thought this was the coolest idea in the coolest place,” Gregg said. “Every state needs one of these.”

Gregg said he was taking cold showers at a beach park before a stranger told him about the rest stop. If he didn’t have a safe place to go Friday, Gregg said he would “be sitting on a bench somewhere looking crazy, trying to figure out what to do.”

The facility also offers on-site social services, but officials said no more than eight clients on any given day have made use of the services.

Mental Health Kokua is operating the facility on a $1 million contract with the city.

The city purchased the four-story building on Kuwili Street for $6.3 million in June 2016. The city also plans to open a treatment center and convert the upper two floors into about 40 studio apartments for single adults and couples.

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It takes time and trust before many people will take the initial steps leading to housing, said Marc Alexander, executive director of the city’s Office of Housing.

“It’s going to take time,” Alexander said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”

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