A new emergency shelter program to address homelessness on Hawaii Island kicked off with construction of 32 shelters on Saturday in Hilo.
More than 50 volunteers, including members of the Hawaii Fire Department’s recruit class, pitched in to build the shelters, with guidance from HPM Building Supply.
The temporary shelters, each measuring 80 square feet, will be ready for occupancy next week and will accommodate the most vulnerable homeless individuals that are frail, elderly or have pre-existing conditions, according to Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim.
Each unit can house up to two people. About 40 eligible individuals have been identified to stay in the units.
“It’s great to have the Fire Department, Public Works and HPM come together for this community project,” the mayor said. “They’re doing this in a wonderful spirit of community, and it’s really special.”
The Hale Hanakahi Emergency Shelter facility is being built with unencumbered Ohana Zone funding approved by the state Legislature. The shelter and program operation costs are estimated at $200,000.
HOPE Services Hawaii and the Neighborhood Place of Puna are working in partnership to deliver 24/7 shelter monitoring services, delivery of grab-and-go meals, laundry services, and the coordination with on-site mental and behavioral health services. The organizations will also provide case management to connect program participants to appropriate permanent housing.
Other nonprofits coming together to get vulnerable homeless people off the streets include Bay Clinic and the Boys &Girls Club.
“We are grateful for the County’s leadership in making this happen,” said Hope Services CEO Brandee Menino.
Sharon Hirota, the mayor’s executive assistant in charge of homelessness issues, thanked the county Department of Parks and Recreation for making the site available for this project. Project participants will have access to the restrooms and showers at the NAS Pool in East Hawaii, which is closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.