Homelessness team considers converting Kakaako shed into family transitional shelter

A maintenance shed in Kakaako currently used by the Hawaii Community Development Authority is being considered for a transitional shelter for homeless families.

State Senator Jill Tokuda made that announcement at Monday’s media briefing by the governor and his leadership team on homelessness at the State Capitol.

The team visited the maintenance shed — located in Kakaako Waterfront Park — earlier that day as it tries to identify government lands between Kakaako and Mapunapuna that have the potential to be used for shelter and transition sites for the homeless. By their calculations, the shed would be able to house about 40 people, and has the basic infrastructure and plumbing needed for it to work.

The governor said it would be his and the team’s top priority to help homeless families first, as there is “virtually zero space in shelters for families, it’s all taken up.”

Data collected as of Aug. 3 from a survey of the people living in the homeless encampment in Kakaako revealed a total of about 300 living there, a mixture of single adults and 31 families. Of the 293 total surveyed, 169 of them were single adults, and 124 were part of 31 family households.

A majority of the homeless are Native Hawaiians and COFA migrants.

Greg Payton of Partners In Care, whose organization helped compile the data, said of those surveyed, 78 percent said they were willing to go to shelters, but close to 36 percent did not have the necessary documents for shelter and public health care programs.

The average income of the homeless single adults was $320, and for families, $587. Payton said the key takeaway of the survey is to find affordable housing for the homeless to provide the level of care needed.

Jason Espero of Waikiki Health, which manages the Next Step shelter in Kakaako, said that there are currently not enough bedspace to accomodate all the homeless families in the area. He said the average shelter stay by a family is five-and-a-half months, but some stay as long as a year and up to 14 months.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell also gave an update on the construction of the Sand Island homeless facility.

The team is also looking at three to five other state facilities and lands — including the previously discussed Liliha Civic Center — as other possible sites.

Gov. Ige said an agreement is being worked out with the United Public Workers to staff up work crews to improve 175 units in public housing currently uninhabitable, like the maintenance shed, and be able to do renovation work without having to go through the bid process.

He also said he’s hoping other communities like Salt Lake, Aiea and Pearl City will be willing to have temporary transitional facilities.

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