Could shipping containers be recycled as shelters for homeless?

The search for an answer to the homeless situation continues and some have suggested converting shipping containers into temporary shelters.

Could this be an idea that the City and County seriously consider?

Containers Hawaii is one of several companies that recycle shipping containers. Francis Martin said the company has been in business for years, primarily converting the containers into office spaces.

But he says the containers could be re-purposed as shelters.

“We can take a large container and divide it up into any size they want,” Martin said. “If they want just a place to store their goods for the day, or all their items, bedrolls and what not. If they actually wanted to have a living space, we have electricity and showers and that type of thing, we can do that, too.”

A quick look inside one of the containers shows the basics that can be done with a relatively small space, although, in square footage, it’s as big as a Waikiki studio apartment.

Honolulu’s planning and permitting department says the container dwellings generally meet with the department’s specifications.

“They’re heavy duty and they’re all pre-approved,” Martin said. “The building department has already pre-approved a regular container so you don’t have to go through the hoops.”

The Mayor’s office — which is looking to start building temporary housing on Sand Island for the homeless — says “we are not looking to spend a lot of money on a temporary solution such as this.

“Part of the reason we green-lighted the Sand Island temporary facility is that is relatively inexpensive to set up as it will be closed in a year or two when Housing First is available.”

Martin said “we work a lot with new containers. It’s always better to start with something new, and they’re not all that more expensive to buy a new one and outfit, so it has more duration of use.”

He said the total cost for electricity, plumbing and painting is $18,000, and that Martin’s crew can finish them in a week.

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