$2.5 Million in ‘Ohana Zone Funds Helps to Address Homelessness

October 15, 2019, 10:11 AM HST · Updated October 15, 10:11 AM
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The site of the old Hilo Memorial Hospital will serve people once again, thanks to $2.5 million in ʻOhana Zone funds from the state.

The Keolahou shelter and assessment center had a “soft” opening on Monday, Oct. 7, and a formal opening and blessing is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 8. When the facility is fully operational, it will offer emergency shelter beds, case management and other resources, with the goal of improving access to needed services for those experiencing homelessness. It is a collaboration between the state, the County of Hawaiʻi, service provider HOPE Services Hawaiʻi and other community partners.

“Each person experiencing homelessness has specific needs, and this center is providing individual assistance to those who seek help,” said Gov. David Ige. “Partnerships like this one allow us to improve the health and well-being of our community’s most vulnerable members.”

There are 25 emergency shelter beds available in the initial phase. At full operation, the shelter will provide 50 emergency shelter beds for single men. The assessment center will allow individuals to connect with a case manager and other services. Individuals will be able to stay for up to 90 days.

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In 2018, state legislators appropriated $30 million to establish at least three ʻOhana Zone sites on Oʻahu, and one each on Hawaiʻi Island, Maui and Kauaʻi.

The law requires that ʻOhana Zones be placed on state and county land and that those spaces provide services to assist homeless individuals and families to access permanent housing. Also, the state has prioritized sites that have existing facilities and infrastructure in place that can be paired with funding to address the needs of chronically homeless individuals and families.

“We’re very grateful for the assistance of the state government, whose ‘Ohana Zone funding is making Keolahou a reality,” said Hawaiʻi Island Mayor Harry Kim.
“I am so proud and grateful to everybody who have worked so hard to make this comprehensive program a reality, with involvement from the faith community, nonprofits, county departments and the private sector.

“This program will hopefully be duplicated in Kona, pending environmental review. Both the Hilo and proposed Kona facilities would provide an assessment center to bring the homeless off the streets, an emergency shelter, permanent supportive housing and support services. We are truly grateful to all of our partners,” Kim said.

HOPE Services Hawaiʻi is working with community partners such the Hawaiʻi County Economic Opportunity Council, Project Vision, Bay Clinic, Hawaiʻi Island HIV/AIDS Foundation, the Food Basket Inc., Arc of Hilo, Hawaiian Community Assets, and Legal Aid Society of Hawaiʻi.

“We are honored to be working with visionary community partners, who will offer life-changing services for the men staying at Keolahou,” said Brandee Menino, chief executive officer of HOPE Services Hawaiʻi. “We are also grateful to the state and County of Hawaiʻi, particularly Sharon Hirota of the mayor’s office, for paving the way for the first ʻOhana Zone on Hawaiʻi Island to become a reality.”

Other projects addressing homelessness are also in the pipeline for Hawaiʻi County. An assessment center at the Na Kahua Hale o Ulu Wini housing complex is expected to open by the end of the year, and the Village 9 affordable housing project and 20 units of permanent supportive housing at Keolahou are scheduled to welcome residents in spring 2020.

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